The 14 Symbols of Easter

As one of the most sacred holidays for Christians is here, the world seems abloom with lovely flowers, colored eggs, baby chick and bunnies. For many, Easter is a time to get a new dress, wake up early to see what the Easter Bunny left in your basket, and Easter egg hunts. While those are all fun and gives us all a holiday to look forward to spending it with family, many aren’t aware of the true meaning of Easter and what the special symbols of the season truly mean.

Easter is a precious time because Jesus faced persecution, pain and mockery to wash away our sins. It is so hard to believe that this perfect man was treated so cruelly, beaten, and hung on the cross with a crown of thorns to die for us that Friday. But the most amazing and sweetest miracle was that Sunday when the ladies that followed him came to his tomb to prepare his body for burial, but to their surprise, the stone on his tomb had been rolled away. Jesus was alive, and the ladies were so filled with joy that wept with tears of happiness. They were told to tell everyone they saw that Jesus had arisen from the grave, proving he was truly King and those that believed in him would have everlasting life.

It’s so heartbreaking to think what he went through just to save us all from death. The Easter story is a story of miracles upon miracles. While many of us heard this wonderful story of crucifixion in Vacation Bible School or Sunday School and church, this miraculous event and the love is often overlooked by many and Easter has often become more about the Easter Bunny and baskets of goodies. But the true meaning of the season is Jesus and his love for us.

But we are very fortunate that the Good Lord has given us some very prominent and moving symbols to remind us of the true reason for this season.

Here are 14 symbols of Easter that are based in this glorious season:

  • Palm Branches —The week before Easter Sunday is known as Palm Sunday. In some religions, parishioners are give palm fronds that symbolize and recreate the arrival of Jesus into Jerusalem before his crucifixion. The crowds threw palm branches honoring Jesus as they were thrown ahead of the donkey carrying Jesus. It is said that palms are symbols of victory and peace.
  • The Dogwood Tree — One of the most prominent symbols of the season, that always see to bloom right in time for Easter can be defined as the centerpiece of this celebration. As Jesus hung on the cross, white lilies bloomed around him as he spent the last hours of his life on the cross. When sweat from his head hit the ground, a lily bloomed in its spot. As a symbol of Jesus’ resurrection and promise of everlasting life, Easter lilies are symbols of new life with flowers resembling crosses and the purity of this man that the world has ever known.
  • Hot Cross Buns — In many parts of the world, hot cross buns are traditional Good Friday treats because they carry the symbol of the cross upon which Jesus was crucified. The buns feature crosses on top, and the spices used in the buns represent the ones that were used to prepare Jesus’ body for the tomb.
  • The Cross — One of the most prominent and important symbols of Easter is the cross. Even though crosses are made of a variety of materials, a plain wooden cross is the most symbolic image of Easter. The wooden cross depicts the cross upon which Jesus was crucified.
  • The Empty Tomb — Many churches and homes have a representation of an empty tomb to depict Jesus’ empty tomb. It represents a miracle of God that no man on earth could ever do. The tomb is also symbolic of the promise of a new life for believers and a rebirth in those who walk with the Lord.
  • The Paschal Candle —This is not quite as well known as the other symbols, but it is just as meaningful. The Paschal Candle, made of beeswax is marked with the year, a cross, and the Greek letters of Alpha and Omega, is lit during the Easter Vigil, which typically takes place at the church the night before Easter Sunday. The Paschal Candle is then used to light smaller candles to the congregation to encourage everyone to spread the light of Jesus to the world.
  • Baby Chicks — Often a present left by the Easter bunny, baby chicks have a greater meaning (and not just the Peeps candy). As baby chicks are hatched from an egg, they are symbolic of new life and fertility, other major symbols of Easter and spring season.
  • Bunny Rabbits — During Spring and especially around Easter time, baby bunnies abound and are another symbol of new life and fertility. It’s been said that the abundance of bunny rabbits became so strongly tied to Easter. According to legend and lore, the Easter Bunny started with the idea that a rabbit would carry baskets full of eggs to share. The tale evolved into the modern day Easter Bunny and the treats he always brings.
  • The Butterfly — Butterflies are also symbols of Jesus’ resurrection. Just as Jesus emerged from the tomb three days after being laid to rest, the butterfly fights his way out of the cocoon and are transformed into a new, beautiful being, a symbol of how believers are transformed through faith and shall be renewed by the grace of God.
  • The Lamb — The lamb is symbolic of Jesus himself. God sent his son to earth to offer forgiveness of the sins of all mankind. Jesus is also a human version of the sacrificial lamb.
  • Easter Baskets — As a representation of nests, which are linked to the spring theme of new life and fertility, Easter baskets are used to carry eggs, furthering the symbolic link of nurturing and new life.
  • Easter Eggs — Eggs are also a symbol of new life. Decorating eggs can be beautiful but might hide the sins within just as in humans. The religious symbolism of carefully decorated Easter eggs, they must be broken or cracked for new life to emerge, just as Jesus’ tomb was opened by God so that he could be resurrected. Ironically, Easter eggs are symbols of both the tomb and the resurrection of Jesus.
  • New Easter Outfits and Bonnets — That new dress or sharp-looking new tie are also symbolic of rebirth and new life. It has also been said that wearing new clothes to church on Easter Sunday would bring good luck for the coming year. Delicately adorned bonnets became a tradition years ago and led to the tradition of Easter Parades where everyone can show off their new attire.
  • Soft Pretzels — According to legend during the 600s, monks made soft pretzels to eat during Lent. During the time of Lent, Catholics were not allowed to eat eggs, fat, or milk during the 40-day fast of Lent. Pretzels only required flour, salt, and water. It has been said that their shape is representative of a common prayer position of the time with the arms crossed in front with hands placed on shoulders. They are still a traditional food of the Lent season of today.

Most of these symbols are still alive today during our Easter celebrations, but many people (like myself) really never took the time to really consider where the traditions came from and their ties to the resurrection of Jesus and his emergence to a new life. I’m sure there are more traditions that families use in their celebrations or churches use to commemorate the Easter season, if you know a few more, drop down into the comments and let us know how your family has celebrated Easter or other symbols of the new life that the spring season and Easter bring, but always remember the true reason the season and give thanks for the great sacrifice that was made to ensure that we would find everlasting life with God.


Written by Judy Smith

Judy Smith has been a freelance writer and photographer for several magazines and publications around the South, including Social South Magazine, Our Mississippi Magazine, DeSoto Magazine, Deep South Magazine, Country Roads Magazine, among others. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Paralegal Studies, Master’s of Science in Mass Communications, and PhD in Communications at the University of Southern Mississippi. And Judy Smith is proud to forever be a Mississippi Girl.


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