LUMBERTON — As they’ve done for centuries, children across Robeson County will search high and low for colorful eggs this afternoon.
Easter egg hunts have long been synonymous with the holiday, and the origins of this beloved childhood tradition can be traced back to early Christians’ use of the egg as a tool to symbolize the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In the 1800s, Protestant German immigrants introduced Americans to holiday folklore involving an egg-laying hare that rewarded good children with gifts. As a result, egg hunts are now commonly associated with the Easter Bunny.
While certain aspects of the activity have changed though the years — the widespread adoption of plastic eggs filled with candy over the ornately painted, organic eggs of yore, for example — the appeal of scavenging for eggs has endured.
On April 12, an Easter egg hunt for children with special health care needs was held outside the Robeson County Parks and Recreation Department on Kenny Biggs Road in Lumberton. From 11 a.m. until 2 p.m., about 100 families scoured the grass for more than 1,000 collapsible eggs containing candy and other treats.
April Oxendine, the Innovative Approaches Initiative coordinator for the Robeson County Department of Public Health, helped organize the event.
“For most of our kids, this was their first Easter egg hunt,” she said. “Because of their health care needs, they’re usually not able to participate in egg hunts.”
Oxendine believes that much of the appeal in hunting for eggs is sensory for children.
“For a child, it’s fun and different to see all of those eggs with different colors, shapes and textures out there. It’s a thrill for them,” she said. “I still enjoy it myself.”
Sue Hudson, a reverend at St. Pauls Presbyterian Church on North Old Stage Road, has a different theory as to why children continue to delight in stuffing their wicker baskets with eggs.
An Easter egg hunt was held outside the church on Saturday afternoon.
“I remember dieing Easter eggs with my mother when I was little,” she said. “I loved decorating eggs with my mom and hunting for them and I’ve passed that on my children.”
Hudson likened hunting for Easter eggs to playing with old cardboard boxes. Both activities are inexpensive to set up and take advantage of children’s’ boundless imaginations.
But children aren’t the only people who get ecstatic about Easter eggs.
Farms across the state traditionally see a boon in sales during the weeks leading up to Easter, according to Jan Kelly, executive director of the North Carolina Egg Association in Cary.
“It’s still a family tradition to dye and hide Easter eggs,” she said. “We know that deviled eggs are a popular dish for family get-togethers, so we also see an increase in entertaining which always brings about an increase in consumption.”
Though some people may consider plastic eggs to be a bit more practical, Kelly said nothing can compete with the real thing.
“We have tried to encourage people to continue that tradition [of hunting for real eggs] because it’s more fun to do with children and grandchildren than hunting for boring plastic eggs,” she said. “Plus, you have food left over.”
Jaymie Baxley can be reached at 910-272-6146, or on Twitter @Jaymie_Baxley