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Why is Easter associated with pastel colors?

Why is Easter associated with pastel colors?

Pastel colors like yellow, pink, light blue, lavender, and mint green have become a staple of Easter celebrations. From Easter eggs to baskets to decorations, these soft, pale hues show up everywhere during the springtime holiday. But why exactly did pastels become so ingrained in Easter imagery and traditions? The associations can be traced back centuries and have both religious and secular roots.

The History and Symbolism of Pastels for Easter

The use of brighter colors and dyes in the spring is ancient. Many cultures viewed the pale colors as symbolic of the new growth and renewal occurring in nature after the drabness of winter. The Persians, Egyptians, Chinese, and other groups used brightly dyed eggs in their spring festivals. As Christianity spread, the Easter holiday took on many of these existing spring rituals. The use of pastels and eggs came to represent Easter and the Resurrection.

Springtime Imagery in Christianity

As a spring festival, Easter took on many imagery related to rebirth and new life found in nature. Soft pastel colors evoked associations with things like:

  • Pale spring flowers blooming
  • The emergence of pastel-hued butterflies from their cocoons
  • The colors of a sunrise
  • New baby animals being born

Pastels were the perfect colors to symbolize Easter and the idea of Jesus rising to new life. The pastel colors became incorporated into stories and imagery involving spring, rebirth, and the Resurrection.

Significance of Specific Pastel Colors

Over time, some pastel Easter colors gained their own specific symbolism:

  • Yellow came to represent joy and happiness.
  • Lavender was seen as a feminizing, calming color.
  • Pink called to mind sweetness, warmth, and new life.
  • Mint green was associated with vitality and renewal.
  • Light blue suggested health, tranquility, and hope.

Many of these color meanings are still observed today in Easter traditions. Pastel flowers and ribbons are used to decorate churches and homes.Candies, cakes, and treats at Easter often come in soft pinks, yellows, and lavenders. Clothing, like Easter dresses, also frequently utilize the lighter springtime hues.

Secular Influences on Pastel Easter Traditions

The symbolism and use of pastels also extended beyond religious meanings:

  • Dyeing eggs, an ancient tradition, was made easier with the use of lighter, bright plant-based dyes from sources like berries, tree bark, and flower petals.
  • The herbs and flowers used to dye the eggs often themselves came in pastel shades.
  • Candy and confection innovations in the 18th-19th centuries allowed mass production of bite-sized pastel-colored treats for Easter.
  • Fashion shifts featured lighter, brighter colors with the arrival of spring.

So while pastels held religious significance, practical aspects also helped establish them as the predominant Easter palette.

The Origins and History of Easter’s Pastel Traditions

Many Easter traditions incorporating pastels have unique histories and origins. Some date back centuries while others are more modern.

Easter Eggs

Century Location History
Ancient times Persia, Egypt, China, Greece, Rome Dyed eggs used in spring festivals as symbols of fertility and rebirth.
Middle Ages Christian Europe Church prohibitions on eggs during Lent increased demand at Easter, elaborate egg decorating began.
17th century Europe Egg wrapping with onion skins popular to make mottled red pattern.
1800s Europe, United States Intricate egg decoration spreads. Bright plant-based dyes allow vibrant colors and patterns.
Late 1800s United States Easter egg hunts, egg rolling become popular activities.
20th century Global Chocolate and candy eggs mass-produced, artificial dye allows uniform Easter egg colors.

While originally more red-hued eggs were common, naturally derived pastel dyes eventually enabled the brightly colored Easter eggs known today. Through the centuries,decorated eggs remained an integral part of Easter rooted in rebirth symbolism.

Easter Bunny

The Easter Bunny is a more recent addition to Easter tradition:

  • Originates from old European folklore about the hare representing fertility and new life in spring.
  • First mentioned in writings in 16th century Germany as a egg-laying hare called Oschter Haws.
  • Brought to America by German immigrants in 1700s, becoming popularized in books and media by the 1800s.
  • Rabbits and bunnies were considered seasonal springtime animals, appropriate Easter mascots.
  • Often depicted in pastel colors like pink, blue, and lavender instead of realistic white or brown.

The Easter Bunny emerged as both a personification of springtime renewal and a colorful children’s tradition.

Easter Parades

Public parades were another seasonal activity that promoted pastels:

  • Started in mid-1800s after Easter services, showcasing elaborate new spring outfits and hats.
  • Reached peak popularity in major cities like New York in the early 20th century, sponsored by retailers.
  • Served as early spring fashion shows with men and women donning their best pastel-hued apparel.
  • Declined after 1960s but still held in some areas, focusing on elaborate Easter bonnets.

The Easter Parade tradition reinforced pastels as the go-to Easter palette.

Easter Lilies

Year Event
1878 First Easter lilies from Bermuda imported to the US
1880s-90s Lily bulbs mass shipped from Japan to US and Europe
Early 1900s Easter lilies popular decor in churches, homes
Mid 1900s Lilies forced to bloom for Easter become widespread tradition

The pure white flowers were associated with virginity and tied to Easter narratives. Their spring bloom time led to traditional Easter decor.

Jelly Beans

While not specifically an Easter invention, candy-coated jelly beans surged in Easter popularity in the 1930s:

  • Jelly beans existed since late 1800s, but were seasonal.
  • Innovations in panning process and sugar shell-coating allowed more colors and flavors.
  • Associating the small beans with Easter eggs helped boost jelly bean popularity.
  • Vibrant pastel colors and flavors reflected other Easter candy trends.
  • Jelly Belly brand further increased the variety of flavors and colors in the 1970s.

Jelly beans joined chocolate and marshmallow candy treats as Easter basket staples.

Regional Differences in Easter Traditions

While pastel colors dominate American Easter traditions, other regions have unique practices:

Middle East

  • Eggs colored dark red to symbolize blood of Christ.
  • Hard boil eggs, decorate by hand with wax and dye.
  • Game involves egg taps, unbroken egg wins.
  • Easter eggs blessed by priests in special ceremonies.

Eastern European

  • More elaborate eggs with intricate designs.
  • Use wax resist techniques like batik on eggs.
  • Exchange of hand-decorated eggs common.
  • Red the most common color, some use of blue, green, yellow.

Western Europe

  • Chocolate eggs and treats more common than decorated eggs.
  • Easter witches and bells from folklore part of traditions.
  • Easter fires symbolize lighting Jesus’ way from tomb.
  • Easter egg trees decorated with eggs and ribbons.

While pastels reign in America, the diversity of Easter traditions globally shows how culture impacts such holiday celebrations and practices.

Reasons for the Popularity and Ubiquity of Pastels for Easter

Given how ingrained pastels are into Easter, what drove their popularity and persistence?

Associations with Spring

The colors are simply symbolic of spring itself – light, soft, fresh, and new. Using pastels for Easter helps make the holiday feel like a spring celebration.

Traditions and Nostalgia

After a century or more of observing pastel-filled Easter traditions, the colors now feel comforting, familiar, and nostalgic. People have fond memories of pastel Easters from their childhood.

Whimsy and Fun

Pastels lend a whimsical, playful feel to Easter that appeals to children. The colors look friendly and cheerful. Their sweet, lighthearted nature fits Easter’s image as a fun, family holiday.


Culturally, lighter, softer colors became associated with femininity and womanhood. Since Easter was seen as more of a “dainty” spring holiday, the use of delicate pastels aligned with those stereotypes.


Retailers found pastels perfect for selling Easter goods. Eye-catching pastel packaging and colors helped drive Easter sales of everything from candy to clothes.

Decor Potential

For decorating, pastels lend themselves to the springtime aesthetic. Their softness provides visual appeal without being overpowering. Floral pinks, robin’s egg blues, and buttery yellows became staples for Easter adornments.

Modern Iterations of Pastel Easter Celebrations

While traditional pastel Easter elements still thrive, modern times have brought some updates:

Digital Eggs

Digital eggs let people customize and design eggs online, shared on social media. No real eggs required.

New Candy Colors

Candy companies now offer Easter treats in neon or bolder colors beyond pastels, like sour green or electric blue.

DIY Crafts

Handmade Easter crafts use pastels in new ways, like paper flower wreaths, painted wood signs, or dyed burlap bunnies.

Adult Easter Baskets

Grown-up Easter gift baskets may contain non-pastel items like wines, spa products, or gift cards.

Non-Traditional Decor

Contemporary Easter decor trends towards minimalism or boho-chic styles in non-pastel hues, like white, metallic, or neutral palettes.

Virtual Egg Hunts

For social distancing, some Easter activities moved online, with virtual egg hunts using phone apps or video chats.


While the significance of pastels for Easter remains strong, modern tastes provide more flexibility in colors. Yet the soft hues will likely always evoke nostalgic Easter joy. Their sweet, hopeful nature still resonates after centuries of defining Easter traditions. In a season of renewal, pastels visualize the uplifting promises of rebirth. Their role in Easter celebrations will continue to inspire people with happier, brighter days ahead.