MUNDANE MYSTERIES: Where Did The Easter Bunny Come From?

Even if you allow for miracles, angels, and pancake Jesus, the Easter Bunny still comes across as a pretty far-out choice as a holiday mascot. Where did the Easter Bunny come from? How did a rabbit become associated with a holiday that commemorates Christ’s resurrection?

The Bible doesn’t mention a cheerful rabbit hopping house to house with baskets of eggs for kids to hunt on Easter Sunday. But because hares (rabbits) symbolize fertility in many cultures, and since spring is the season of rebirth & renewal, some believe those ideas played a big part in bunnies getting linked to Easter. Hares have also been closely tied to certain deities, like Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of springtime & fertility. Legend says that Eostre once saved a wounded bird, whose frostbitten wings led Eostre to transform the bird into a hare. To thank Eostre, the hare would return once a year during the festival of Eostre & lay colored eggs, since eggs were viewed as emblematic of the renewal of life.

Then, when Christianity began to spread, missionaries would frequently place pagan ideas & rituals within the context of the Christian faith, partly by transforming pagan festivals into Christian holidays. The Eostre festival, which was held around the spring equinox, soon became the same time when Christians would also celebrate Christ’s resurrection. And eventually, the two celebrations became one, with Eostre’s name ultimately being co-opted as the holiday’s name.

But what about Easter eggs? Well, within Christianity, eggs are representative of Christ’s resurrection, which is why some Christians will refrain from eating them during Lent and, instead, decorate them to celebrate the start of spring. Easter eggs are also found in late 16th century Germanic writings, as they converted the pagan hare imagery into “Oschter Haws”, a much cuter cottontail who’d leave batches of colored eggs in gardens once each year for good children to hunt for. The Pennsylvania Dutch brought Oschter Haws with them in the 1700s as they settled here in America, after which he eventually evolved into the Easter bunny we all now know & love, bringing chocolate & toys alongside the traditional eggs.

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