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Origins Of The Easter Bunny
Happy Easter to everyone, or Happy Passover, or Happy Sunday, whatever your particular leanings may be. For my family it is Happy Easter. Easter is a time when we think of going to Church and usually don't, except for this year where my wife and kids went but were nice enough not to wake me up. (Sure I will pay for that later) Easter usually means a time where we dye Easter Eggs, except for this year we made sugar cookies.
It was while we were making Sugar Cookies that my daughter asked me some thought provoking questions:
Beautiful Daughter: "Easter is supposed to be about Jesus right?"
All Knowing Father: "Yes, that's right."
Beautiful Daughter: Then what's with the bunnies? And why are Easter Eggs a part of the holiday?
Apparently Not So All Knowing Father: "Umm, Gee, Umm I don't know."
The Easter Bunny
Because I did not know the answer to two basic and simple questions, I decided to do some research and write this article. Not only did I get an idea for an article, I also now have the opportunity to embarass my daughter so it is a win win for me.
The word Easter has its roots from the Germanic Eastre, who was a pagan Saxon goddess. Eastre was the Tuetonic goddess of dawn, spring and fertility. The first Sunday after the first full moon was celebrated in her honor at the vernal equinox. The first Sunday after the vernal equinox was also clebrated in her honor and this holiday was named in her honor.
Eastre's symbols were the hare and the egg. Both represent fertility and, consequently, rebirth. Since rabbits are more common in most lands than hares, over time the rabbit has been substituted -- not without merit, since rabbits are notorious for their fertility. Thus was born the "Easter Rabbit" tradition.
According to Wikopedia, which is law, the Easter Bunny has it origins in Alsace and southwestern Germany where it was first mentioned in German writings in the 1600s. The first edible Easter Bunnies were made in Germany in the 1800s and were made of sugar and pastry.
This, however, is the origin of the Easter Bunny as the symbol of Easter. The Hare and Rabbit have their origins in pre-christian fertility lore as Rabbits and Hares are the most fertile of animals and they symbolize new birth at the coming of Spring.
The Easter Bunny migrated to the Americas in the 1700s by German settlers in Pennsylvania. The ritual of the Easter Bunny is oddly familar. Children would build brightly colored nests, often out of caps and bonnets. If the children had been good, the Easter Bunny would lay brightly colored eggs in the nest. The nest have of course transformed today in the Easter basket.
The Easter Egg
Eggs also are an ancient symbol of fertility and rebirth. The precise origin of the ancient custom of coloring eggs is not readily known. The ancient Persians painted eggs for Nowrooz, their New Year Celebration which fell on the Spring Equinox. At the Jewish Passover Seder, a hard boiled egg is dipped in salt water to symbolize the festival sacrafice offered at the Temple in Jerusalem. And of course, the egg was also a symbol of Eastre, the Pagon goddess of fertility and rebirth.
The common theme across all cultures is that the painting of eggs symbolizes rebirth at the dawn of a new spring.
So my beautiful daughter, there is your answer. Eggs and Bunnies are symbols of fertility, so stay away from Eggs and Bunnies would you. That being said, Easter in my family has all of the right pieces, Eggs, Bunnies, Chocolate with a little religion throw in. Most importantly, Easter is one of the few holidays where we get together as a family, enjoy a nice meal together and relax. For this, Easter is a great holiday.