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The Origin of The Easter Bunny

Updated on March 26, 2013
The Easter Bunny makes many appearances on Easter Sunday.
The Easter Bunny makes many appearances on Easter Sunday. | Source
Source

Why do People Celebrate Easter?

Easter is a Christian holiday that celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ, on the third day after is crucifixion (as described by the New Testament). Easter is a culminations of the Passion of the Christ followed by Lent, a day of fasting, prayer and penance. Holy Week is the last week of Lent and these days are then celebrated by the Easter Triduum. The Easter Triduum includes, Maundy Thursday (or Holy Thursday), which commemorates the Last Supper (and it's preceding “foot washing”), as well as Good Friday, which commemorates the crucifixion and the death of Jesus Christ, then Easter follows the fifty day period called Eastertide (or the Easter Season), ending with Pentecost Sunday.

Easter is not a fixed holiday in relation to the civil calender, but it is considered to be a movable feast. The Council of Nicaea established the date of Easter to be the first Sunday after the full moon following the March equinox. The March equinox usually falls around March 21st (even though the equinox usually occurs on March 20th most years). The date of Easter therefore falls between March 22nd and April 25th. Eastern Christianity bases the Easter calculations on the Julian calendar, in which Easter is celebrated between April 4th and May 8th.

Easter is linked to the Jewish Passover, by both it's symbolism and its position in the calendar. In many languages, “Easter” and “Passover” are etymologically related (meaning, these words have the same definition). Easter customs vary across the Christian world, but most attend sunrise services, exclaiming the Paschal greeting, clipping the church, and decorating Easter eggs (a symbol of the empty tomb). There are additional customs that some have adapted to celebrate Easter, which include, egg hunting, Easter parades, and the Easter Bunny.

A bunny with Easter eggs.
A bunny with Easter eggs. | Source

What is the Easter Bunny?

The Easter Bunny is a mythical creature thought to bring and hide easter eggs. In legend, the Easter Bunny carries colorful eggs in a basket to small children around the world, sometimes the Easter Bunny is even depicted as bringing small children candy as well as colorful Easter eggs. The Easter Bunny is sometimes depicted as wearing clothes, but in some cultures and social circles the Easter Bunny does not. The Easter Bunny is similar to the mythical man, Santa Claus, this is due to the imaginative thought that both mythical creatures bring small children gifts on the night before their celebrated holidays.

Wishing everyone a happy Easter!
Wishing everyone a happy Easter! | Source
Easter eggs
Easter eggs | Source
Easter Bunny
Easter Bunny | Source

What is the Origin of the Easter Bunny and Easter Eggs?

The origin of the “egg-laying rabbit” who sneaks into young children's rooms delivering eggs, candy and toys the night before Easter Sunday is a little unclear, but there are many theories and evidence justifying the Easter Bunny as part of Easter tradition and custom.

It is said that the Easter Bunny is a derivative of a popular motif in medieval church art, and that the Easter Bunny (in Christianity) is an association to the Virgin Mary, and that the Easter Bunny was thought to be a hermaphrodite and could reproduce without the loss of virginity. Hares have reoccurred in many illuminated manuscripts and Northern European paintings of the Virgin and Christ child. The Eastern Bunny may have also been associated with the Holy Trinity (as in the three hares motif, representing the “One in Three and Three in One”of which the triangle or three interlocking shapes, such as rings, are also common symbols). In england, the three hares motif usually appears prominent place in the church, this suggests that this symbol held strong symbolic significance to the church, while others cast doubt, suggesting that this motif may only have been masons' or carpenters signature marks. Even though it seems obvious why Christians have a connection to the hare, the origin of the Easter egg, and egg decorating is unknown. It is thought that Christians decorate hard-boiled eggs and decorate their homes with flowers in order to bring Spring into their homes and lives. Eggs are also forbidden during the Lent fasting which is why many eat and decorate an abundance of eggs around Easter time.

It is also widely believed and thought that the Easter Bunny originated from Pagan Spring rituals celebrating the renewal and rebirth. Many Pagan cultures held Spring festivals to honor this renewal and rebirth of the earths life to promote fertility. These festivals honored the Spring goddess (the goddess of dawn), Eastre. The hare (bunny) was a pagan symbol of renewal and eggs were a symbol of rebirth during the Spring festivals and celebrations. As time progressed and Christianity became one of the most popular religions worldwide, Christians adapted the Easter Bunny, to help convert Pagans unto Christianity, since Pagans were very connected and attached to the hare and the eggs.

The idea of the “egg-laying bunny” came to the United States in the 18th century by German immigrants. These German immigrants whom settled in the Pensylvannia Dutch area told their children of the tale of the “Osterhase” (“hase” means “hare”, not rabbit, and it is believed that the Easter Bunny is indeed a hare). According to legend, only good children receive gifts of colored eggs in the nests that they made in their caps and bonnets the night before Easter, and the Easter Hare (or Easter Bunny) would then lay it's eggs in the good children's “nests”. In 1835 Jakob Grimm wrote of the long-standing myths in Germany, and suggested that these derived from legends of the reconstructed continental Germanic goddess, Ostara. Even though the exact origin of the Easter Bunny and Easter eggs are somewhat unknown, it is known that the hare and eggs have a large symbolic significance to those whom desire to celebrate Easter.

Symbols of the Easter Bunny

Rabbits and hares are symbols of fertility and antiquity, since hares and rabbits give birth to large litter in the early spring, they became symbols of the rising fertility of the earth at the March equinox. Rabbits and hares are both prolific breeders, which means that they can both conceive a second litter of offspring while still pregnant with the first. This phenomenon is known as superfetation. Due to this it is not surprising that many religions adapted the rabbit and hare as fertility symbols or that they have been adapted into the Easter folklore.

Easter eggs in a basket with the common colors of red and green.
Easter eggs in a basket with the common colors of red and green. | Source

Symbols of Easter Eggs

Eggs, just as the rabbit and hare, are symbols of fertility. As stated earlier, the Easter egg is a symbol of the empty tomb of Jesus Christ after his resurrection. Many Christians (most generally those connected with the Eastern Orthodox Church) typically dye their Easter eggs red, the color of blood, to symbolize the sacrifice of Christ. Others use the color green, to honor the new foliage emerging after the long dead of winter. Since an egg appears to be a stone, similar to a tomb, and a bird hatches from it with life, the Easter egg has become a reminder to Christians that Jesus rose from the grave, and all those whom also believe will experience eternal life as well.

Easter basket with chocolate eggs.
Easter basket with chocolate eggs. | Source
Chocolate Easter bunny.
Chocolate Easter bunny. | Source

Easter Celebrations in the United States

Today, many people celebrate easter (even those who do not associate themselves with any type of religion). People now give their children Easter baskets filled with chocolates, candy, and even toys and allow their children to believe that the mythical Easter Bunny delivers these gifts in response to their good and appropriate behavior. American also attend parades, enjoy an Easter feast, and celebrate this holiday by spending time with close family and friends. People in the United States, also dye Easter eggs and hide them, so the children can then participate in an Easter egg hunt, where the children search for the eggs to receive a prize (most generally people now use plastic eggs to hide prizes and candy inside, but some still hide the traditional Easter egg, which is a decorated hard-boiled egg or shell). The United States have also made the Easter holiday a corporate celebration as well. Many corporations and businesses have created many candies, treats, movies, television shows, commercials, and more in honor of this celebration (and to ensure that people buy into the holiday, even if they are not religious). Many companies have created chocolate Easter bunnies and eater eggs, such as the Cadbury company (patent creator of the Cadbury egg). Even though Easter is widely celebrated in the US, it is not considered to be a national holiday, but instead it is an optional holiday, meaning that businesses can close on their own desecration (since Easter falls on a Sunday, most businesses are closed anyway for the weekend). Many other countries around the world also celebrate Easter and the young children receive gift baskets, but it is not a "corporate" holiday, it is more traditional and religious in other cultures.

Why Do You Celebrate Easter?

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How to Decorate Easter Eggs

Sources

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Easter_Bunny

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Easter_egg

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Easter#Easter_celebrations_around_the_world

http://mentalfloss.com/article/21411/where-did-easter-bunny-come

http://www.gotquestions.org/easter-bunny-eggs.html

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    • btrbell profile image

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Very interesting and illuminating! Thank you!

    • Abby Campbell profile image

      Abby Campbell 4 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      Awesome, JamiJay! I didn't know all that information about the Easter bunny! Wow! Thank you for sharing. :-)

    • MarieAlana1 profile image

      Marie Alana 4 years ago from Ohio

      Great hub! There are so many reasons why to celebrate Easter. The Easter Bunny is such a fun little character for the children. It brings out the beginning of Spring in such a great way!