Tomorrow children will run to their Easter baskets to see what goodies have been left in their basket. While candy sometimes seems the reason for the holiday many of the candy items have a deeper meaning.

Prior to most people being able to read and write Christians used everyday items to tell the story of Jesus and the miracle of his resurrection. Eggs, chicks, bunnies (hares), baby animals, lilies and other spring flowers were used as reminders.

The candy today is a representation of things that were real. Easter eggs and chicks both symbolize new life. Eggs have symbolized spring since ancient times. Eggs are also a symbol of the rock tomb from which Christ emerged when he arose again. The hatching chick symbolizes new life or re-birth.

The Easter bunny was originally a hare. The hare was a symbol of abundant new life in ancient times.

The lamb is perhaps the best known animal representing Jesus who is called "the Lamb of God." The Lamb of God represents the eternal life brought to man by Jesus Christ. However, all baby animals born in the spring are considered to represent new life.

Butterflies return to our gardens in spring and bring beautiful color to our lives. But the butterfly is one of the most significant symbols of Easter after the cross and the lamb. That is because its three-part life cycle is meant to symbolize the life of Jesus Christ. In the first stage it is the caterpillar, which represents His life on Earth. The second phase begins with the cocoon stage and portrays the crucifixion and burial of Jesus. The third and last stage is the butterfly which represents Christís rising from the dead in glory and peace.

The white Easter lilies symbolize the purity of Jesus. Lilies, rising from the earth in spring also symbolize new life and the resurrection of Christ. Likewise, daffodils and tulips that bloom in the spring are another symbol of spring and new life. Resurrection lilies are so named because they come up in the spring as green leaves, then die back only to return in summer as a flower with no leaves.

Perhaps the best know plant at Easter is the palm branch. Jesus arrived in Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday to people waving palm branches and throwing them on the road before him as a sign of welcome. Today we often wave palm branches in church on Palm Sunday in memory of Jesusí entry into Jerusalem.

Some food symbols are hot cross buns and pretzels. Hot cross buns have a cross of icing on the top to remind people of Christ, and like all crosses symbolize Jesus' victory over death. Pretzels are eaten during Lent because they have no sugar, something many people give up for Lent. The twisted shape is said to symbolize arms crossed in prayer.

Many churches have candles used throughout the year during their services. At Easter many increase the number of candles used to symbolize Jesus, "the light of the world."

For more about Easter symbols go to http://www.theholidayspot.com/easter/easter_symbols.htm

Please take time this weekend to talk with your children about the meaning — the true meaning — of Easter. It goes far beyond a new dress or shirt and far, far beyond a basket of candy.

Mrs. Theil is a child advocate in Wayne and Holmes counties. She can be contacted at BeverlyVT@aol.com.