When you think about it, the Easter Bunny is quite an odd character. He’s a gigantic anamorphic rabbit in a bunny suit that lays eggs and delivers baskets to children on Easter Sunday. When you look at other gift-giving characters such as Santa Claus, at least you can trace him back to real person, St. Nickolas. But the bunny is just weird. He has nothing to do with the resurrection of Christ – the reason we celebrate the holiday – so where did he come from?
My research shows that there is no reference to hares in the bible. Rather, the rabbit was a popular symbol of springtime and fertility. The best I can figure is that springtime, eggs, and fertile rabbits are symbolic of rebirth, thus they can be associated somewhat with the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
I also discovered that in pre-Christian Germany the deity, Eostra was the goddess of fertility and her symbol was the rabbit. The Anglo-Saxons referred to this pagan god at Eastre and believed her earthly incarnation was the rabbit. When they converted over to Christianity, they melded their pagan symbolism with their new beliefs and the celebration of Christ’s resurrection became known at Easter.
The very first reference to the Easter Bunny was back in the late 1600’s in Germany but the idea of the egg-laying hare didn’t come about until the 1800s. It was a tradition brought to the US by the Pennsylvania Dutch. Children would leave empty baskets and bonnets around the house and the Osterhase (Easter Hare) would reward all the good boys and girls by filling their empty receptacles with eggs and gifts.
Today, the Easter Bunny is a fun, yet secular part of most children’s holiday tradition. Although there are many conservative Christians who do not allow Peter Cottontail to be part of their religious celebration others consider his visit to a fun rite of passage for kids just like Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy.
Tell us what do you think about the Easter Bunny. Leave us a comment.