How the Easter Bunny Came About

The Origins and Traditions Behind the World's Most Popular Rabbit

The Significance

The origin of the Easter Bunny seems to have emerged in pre-Christian folklore. Rabbits and hares were recognized for their fertility and therefore became symbols of new life for Spring. Likewise, eggs are also considered fertility symbols and are also a symbol of new life in Spring. Somehow the unusual notion that a rabbit is capable of laying eggs seems to have come from merging two formerly separate symbols somewhere in history.

The Easter Bunny is Born

The first appearance of an egg laying rabbit emerged amongst German Protestants during the 1700s. They wished to retain the Catholic custom of eating coloured eggs for Easter without having to fast. (Catholics were forbidden to eat eggs during lent, and were therefore abundant on Easter Sunday).

German immigrants introduced the “Osterhase”, which means Easter Hare, to Pennsylvania in the 18th century. The Germans told their children about the hare that would only lay colourful eggs in nests created for him by good boys and girls. The tradition has spread and is now celebrated among many cultures, some with slight differences.

Cultural Translation

In the US, some children will leave carrots out for the Easter Bunny. In return he will leave baskets of Easter eggs, chocolates and candy. Revelers hide hard-boiled eggs and plastic eggs filled with money or candy and children will hunt for them.

Some Americans refer to the Easter Bunny as the “Spring Bunny” to erase religious connotations, although this is not widely supported.

In Australia, rabbits are considered pests. The Aussies have launched a long-running campaign to replace the Easter Bunny with the Easter Bilby, a threatened native marsupial. It is not uncommon to find chocolate Bilbies for sale in Australian stores, although the Easter Bunny still remains most popular.

Belgium and France
The Belgians and French do not believe that Easter eggs are delivered by the Easter Bunny, but by Cloches de Paques (Easter Bells). In Christian tradition, church bells are silenced on Good Friday out of respect for Christ's crucifixion and are rung again on Easter Sunday in celebration of his resurrection. The French and Belgians believe that the church bells fly away to Rome when they are silenced and return on Easter morning, dropping Easter eggs on their way back.

What's in the Colour?

The exact origins of the custom of colouring eggs is not known although different cultures have traditionally coloured eggs to represent their interpretation of the celebration of Spring. The Greeks colour their eggs red to symbolize blood, the renewal of life and the sacrifice of Christ. Pastels are popular in the United States, possibly symbolizing the rainbow, which represents hope and luck. Other cultures colour their eggs green to honour the new foliage of Spring.

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