History of the Easter Bunny
Before discussing the history of the Easter Bunny, we need to discuss Easter itself. Easter to the Christians is a religious holiday that signifies the resurrection of Christ. The Christian missionaries in the 5th century went out to convert the pagans.
They had to do this very carefully, though, so they would interject their religious beliefs into pagan festivals, one of which was the spring festival celebrating Eastre (also Eostre), the Saxon goddess of spring and offsprings.
The Christians combined their celebration of Christ's resurrection with this festival and after awhile, the name Easter was derived from Eastre.
The origin of the Easter Bunny (Osterhase) came along much later and is first mentioned in 1682 in a piece of literature written by Georg Franck von Franckenau. This was speaking of the bringing of Easter eggs in the regions of the Alsace and the upper part of the Rhineland.
During the 18th century, the Easter Bunny tradition was brought by the German Settlers to the United States. Kids would make nests out of bonnets or hats that were brightly colored and place them in certain parts of their houses. The legend states that if the kid had behaved, the bunny would lay eggs in their nests.
It makes sense that the bunny (or hare actually) and eggs are associated with a spring celebration like Easter. Both are symbols of fertility, which is thought to rise during the vernal equinox. In March, in fact, the male hares try to win over the females for mating. Hares and rabbits both breed quite prolifically.
The exact origin of coloring eggs
for Easter is unknown. It was probably first done by using various flowers and plants to boil with the eggs to color them. This brought some of the spring colors into the houses. Some Christians belonging to the Eastern Orthodox Church dye the eggs red to symbolize the blood of Christ. Other people dye them green in honor of the new growth of plants during the spring.
The Protestants from Germany wanted to celebrate Easter by eating the eggs like the Catholics, but did not want to practice fasting as they did during lent, which Easter is the at the end of. This is one of the reasons that eggs were so plentiful around Easter.
Today, this has turned into the Easter basket tradition. These baskets are filled with colored eggs, toys, candies and other goodies. There are Easter egg hunts traditionally done on this holiday. Also, the resurrection of Christ is still celebrated in many churches worldwide.
While the children anticipate the coming of the Easter Bunny to bring them their baskets of goodies, the Christians also try to teach them the religious meaning for the day. Like Christmas, it is a blend of secular and religious celebrations. This is still very much a celebration of spring with women buying new outfits, and often, hats to show off. The history of the Easter Bunny legend lives on.
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