The Hare-Raising History of the Easter Bunny
The Easter Bunny, alternatively known as the bearer of colorful, candy-filled eggs, is the symbol of Easter. This holiday celebrates the resurrection of Jesus, but the bunny who distributes chocolate eggs is found nowhere in the Bible. How bunnies are related to Easter is rather a mystery since bunnies do not lay eggs. Numerous theories surround this conundrum ranging from German folklore and Pagan tradition, to Medieval paintings.
The Germans immigrants are primarily responsible for diffusing Easter customs among the United States in the 1700s as they settled in Pennsylvania. The Easter Bunny was first publicized by German Protestants for children. This bunny, known as “Osterhase”, would supposedly lay colorful eggs and hide them in gardens for well-behaved children to find. Thus, this belief expanded to include chocolate, gifts, decorated baskets, and festivities that we currently have today.
Paralleling Pagan Symbols
While Easter is predominantly a Christian holiday, the Easter Bunny has been affiliated with Pagan beliefs. This is due to an ancient Anglo-Saxon myth associated with the fertility goddess Ostara. According to the myth, Ostara transformed her bird into a rabbit to appease children by gifting them vibrant eggs brought forth by the rabbit. In fact, in his book, Deutsche Mythologie, famous folklorist Jacob Grimm speculated that since the hare is sacred to Ostara, this animal thus symbolizes new beginnings associated with Spring. The association of the Easter Bunny with Ostara further spread as the 8th-century historian, Saint Bede, proposed that Easter is derived from “Eostre”, which is another name for Ostara. However, there is no evidence to suggest that any of these statements are valid.
A Symbol of Fertility
The Bible does not portray any connection between the Easter Bunny and Jesus’ resurrection. However, rabbits are prolific breeders, thus being able to conceive a second litter of offspring while they are pregnant with the first. As a result, this animal has been linked with Virgin Mary who became pregnant without losing her innocence. Hence, the medieval period marks the the appearance of rabbits in artworks where Mary’s innocence is allegorically depicted.
The Easter Celebration Continues
Overall, while the origin of the Easter Bunny remains obscure, there are numerous ways to honor this joyous occasion. From Easter egg hunts to egg rolling events to parades, this “best-selling candy holiday” is a time of renewal, positivity, and enjoyment as we spend time with our loved ones. For instance, New York City’s Easter Parade consists of many people sporting decorated bonnets and hats to celebrate this holiday. Thus, Easter is more than a symbol for Spring and the resurrection of Jesus. Rather, this holiday symbolizes a fresh start and bonding.