Every year, children rush to see if the Easter bunny left eggs, treats, and chocolates in a hidden basket for them. Easter and the Easter bunny have become synonymous. For centuries, Easter history and the Easter bunny have had roots in Christianity.
The Christian faith is incomplete without the mention of Easter. It is an annual celebration observed among Christians in many countries. Easter is a period of self-reflection, thought and prayer that marks the end of 40 days of lent and the rebirth of Jesus Christ. The cotton-tailed creature known as the Easter bunny is one of many methods used to mix religious concepts with pagan festivals.
The origin of the Easter bunny
The origin of the Easter Bunny dates back to the 13th century among pagans during the Vernal Equinox. According to the Professor’s House, the celebration by pagans of the mystical egg-laying hare happens around the same time Christians were marking the death and resurrection of Jesus as their Easter.
This spring pagan tradition commemorates fertility and rebirth with the goddess of spring and the dawn, known as Eastre (or Oestre or Ostara). They associated newborns of both humans and animals with Eastre during the spring period. The rabbit is a rapid breeder; therefore, it became linked to the pagan concept of fertility.
The legend goes that the goddess Eastre saw a bird frozen in the snow, which caused her to arrive "late” for their traditional festival. By coming late to the celebration, winter lasted longer than expected. Knowing this, the goddess Eastre had mercy on the bird and changed him into a multi-colored snow-hare capable of laying eggs on one single day every year. This led to the origin of the festival of Eastre.
Easter history continues into 17th century Germany, where the Christian holiday and the pagan egg-laying bunny combine. As Christianity spread to other areas, missionaries in their attempt to get new converts incorporated the Easter bunny into Christian holidays. The Germans changed the pagan hare into Oschter Haws, or the Easter Hare. This hare lays multi-colored eggs as gifts for well-mannered children.
The origin of the Easter bunny in America
There are two schools of thought on the American origins of the Easter bunny. The German National Tourist Board writes that Dutch emigres in the 18th century brought the Easter bunny tradition to America. Their children made nests in their hats in anticipation that the "Oschter Haws" would drop some colored eggs.
The other school of thought is that German settlers who lived in Pennsylvania during the 18th century brought the Easter bunny to America. Their children made nests just like the Dutch children, hoping the hare would leave eggs. Over time, the idea spread across the entire U.S., and the Easter bunny now brings candy, chocolates and gifts. Ultimately, the nests gave way to decorated eggs and Easter baskets.
The use of chocolate as Easter eggs
The first chocolate eggs appeared in France and Germany in the 19th century; however, they were hard and bitter. With advancements in chocolate manufacturing techniques, companies created hollow eggs like the ones we have today. Over the years, the commercial popularity exploded and has become a favorite among chocolate lovers.
Easter and the Easter bunny are forever entwined. In the Christian faith, it is a time of reflection. For both children and adults, Easter and the Easter bunny are a means of celebrating together as a family. And yes, everything does seem better with chocolate!