MARCH 24, 1997

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Egg hunts have a long history

egg hunts from Keebler Cookies & Borden Kitchens
Egg hunts are part of spring rituals that go back long before there was an Easter. Primitive people were intrigued as they watched an inanimate egg hatch into a living creature, and searched their surroundings for these visible signs that winter's bleakness was giving way to spring's rebirth.
   Eggs became symbolic of Easter as ancient spring customs were interwoven with new religious rituals and beliefs. In fact, the word "Easter" is derived from the name of the Teutonic goddess of spring.
   Through the centuries, cultures around the world have commemorated the mystery and surprise of the egg as a symbol of spring and new life. Perhaps the most popular of these rituals celebrating the egg is associated with the Easter Bunny.
   The Easter Bunny came to America from Germany, where children are told the bunny actually lays beautifully hand-painted eggs for them to find in the grass. In a twist on the tale, French parents tell their children a hare hops to Rome, a city with religious significance, to bring back the eggs scattered on dewy spring lawns.
   American families continue the tradition of the Easter Bunny by searching for treat-lined baskets and eggs. The most well-known American Easter egg hunt is the White House Easter Egg Roll, first held in 1887, where thousands of children roll brightly-colored hard-cooked eggs down a grassy slope and hunt for souvenir wooden eggs signed by celebrities who visit the White House.
   Children and bunnies aren't the focus of all Easter celebrations. In the Ukraine, exquisitely decorated eggs featuring designs passed down from generation to generation are considered works of art for adults. Russian Tzar Nicholas II presented his wife with the ultimate egg surprise when he commissioned jeweler Faberge to craft golden, jewel-encrusted eggs with intricately detailed miniatures of items such as crowns and birds hidden inside.