As children we hardly ever questioned why the Easter Bunny came to visit us and further more why did he bring us chocolate bunnies to eat? Why do we color eggs? What are the meanings of these traditions? While they are fun and make great memories with your family the answers may (or may not) surprise you.
There are no stories in the bible that refer to this fluffy hare bringing us baskets filled with goodies, no passages that talk about children painting Easter eggs to be hidden by a large rabbit. So where do these practices come from and how do they end up on our Easter tables?
According to the University of Florida’s Center for Children’s Literature and Culture, the origin of the celebration — and the origin of the Easter Bunny — can be traced back to 13th-century, pre-Christian Germany, when people worshiped several gods and goddesses. The Teutonic deity Eostra was the goddess of spring and fertility, and feasts were held in her honor on the Vernal Equinox. Her symbol was the rabbit because of the animal’s high reproduction rate.
The first recorded mention of and Easter Bunny was in Georg Franck von Frankenau’s De ovis paschalibus (About Easter Eggs) in 1682 referring to an Alsace tradition of an Easter Hare bringing Easter Eggs.
The idea of an egg-laying bunny came to the U.S. in the 1700s. German immigrants in the Pennsylvania Dutch area told their children about the “Osterhase” (sometimes spelled “Oschter Haws“]). “Hase” means “hare”, not rabbit, and in Northwest European folklore the “Easter Bunny” indeed is a hare, not a rabbit. According to the legend, only good children received gifts of colored eggs in the nests that they made in their caps and bonnets before Easter. In 1835, Jakob Grimm wrote of long-standing similar myths in Germany itself. Grimm suggested that these derived from legends of the reconstructed continental Germanic goddess *Ostara.
Easter is a religious holiday, but some of its customs, such as Easter eggs, are likely linked to pagan traditions. The egg, an ancient symbol of new life, has been associated with pagan festivals celebrating spring. From a Christian perspective, Easter eggs are said to represent Jesus’ emergence from the tomb and resurrection. Decorating eggs for Easter is a tradition that dates back to at least the 13th century, according to some sources. One explanation for this custom is that eggs were formerly a forbidden food during the Lenten season, so people would paint and decorate them to mark the end of the period of penance and fasting, then eat them on Easter as a celebration.
Easter is a time for renewal and rebirth. The trees are growing buds, flowers are splashing the landscape with vibrant colors and the whole world feels like it’s waking up. As we enter into our Easter traditions this year our knowledge of this subject will reign supreme.
As the cold and grey winter days,
Give way to the bright and beautiful spring,
You know it’s time for you to hear
the Easter bells ring!
The birds are chirping, the bunnies are out
There are Easter eggs all around!
There is happiness in the air
And a warmth in your heart
To stay with you, all through the year!