By Betheny Green
Having been raised Baptist, I was taught that Easter is the celebration of the resurrection of Christ after his crucifixion. However, I always questioned how in the heck that a bunny, eggs and chicks got thrown in to the mix.
I was always that kid that was asking too many questions.
It turns out that, like many “Christian” holidays, the roots of our “Easter” holiday may not be at all what you were taught. Here’s a short synopsis:
The First Easter Bunnies
The Easter Bunny evolved from a number of traditions, some dating back thousands of years. The earliest humans noticed the link between the cycles of women that were linked with the birth of children and the cycles of the moon. In the oldest records from civilizations in Asia, the hare was the symbol of the moon.
So it followed that the moon and the rabbit both became the symbol of rebirth or life after death. Today, Easter is celebrated around the time of the Paschal Full Moon in Spring.
In ancient Egypt, the rabbit was also recognized as a symbol of fertility and renewal. This belief spread to the Greeks and then to the Romans who shared it with the rest of Europe.
Later, the Celts and other early European groups celebrated the festival of Eastre, a goddess of the dawn associated with springtime. Her symbol was the rabbit, the most fertile animal and a symbol of new life. Many people think that the modern feast of Easter developed from springtime feasts to honor Eastre.
The Medieval Easter Bunny
During the Middle Ages, the rabbit also became associated with chicken eggs, since both were symbols of fertility and rebirth in the spring. The Easter Bunny as a holiday symbol delivering candy and eggs is thought to have started around that time in Germany.
Germany is also where the first edible Easter bunnies were made during the early 1800s, when baked pastry bunnies first appeared. Together with gummy candies shaped like eggs, (which is where jelly beans came from), the treats were placed in straw nests in secluded areas of the house or in the garden for children to find.
The custom changed over time and eventually the Easter Bunny began to deposit eggs – in childrens shoes. It may well have been the world’s firstscavenger hunt!
The Easter Bunny Comes to America
When German people came to the United States, they brought their customs with them and soon everyone was waiting for the Easter Bunny to arrive with colored eggs, chocolate bunnies and jelly beans!
Children’s shoes were not big enough to hold all of the goodies, so Easter baskets became the popular place to hide holiday treats.
What do you think about the Easter bunny and how it plays into our Easter traditions?