Wondering why rabbits are associated with Easter?
In this post, we look at the history of the easter bunny.
For as long as anyone can remember, rabbits have been associated with Easter. Every year millions of children head to their local mall to sit on the Easter Bunny’s lap. But what does a rabbit have to do with celebrating Easter? Since when did they lay eggs?
You will not find any references to these furry creatures in the bible, and Easter is without a doubt a Christian holiday. There is more than one theory out there. This article aims to briefly outline them all.
Rabbits and Fertility
History shows that rabbits have long been associated with fertility and birth, or rebirth, for centuries. The fact that they reproduce at such a rapid right probably explains this. They start having babies very young and can have many litters per year. In fact, a rabbit can get pregnant within hours of giving birth, and their gestation period is only 28 to 31 days.
One popular theory is that pagan beliefs and celebrations surrounding fertility were merged with the Christian holiday in 17th century Germany. The fact that this holiday occurs during the spring, when the earth is going through its own “rebirth,” further cements this connection.
1700’s German Immigrants
The very first documented story of the Easter Bunny can be found back in the 1500s. A story was published telling his story in 1680. It is widely believed that the Easter Bunny traditions first made their way to America in the 1700s, brought over by German immigrants. They brought along with them their tradition of “Osterhase,” or egg-laying rabbits .
German children used to create colorful nests for the rabbit to leave its colorful eggs in. Eventually, these nests became replaced by colorful baskets. Just like children left cookies and milk out for Santa, they let carrots out for this magical bunny. Over time, the Easter Bunny started to bring more than just eggs.
Rabbits and Eggs
The next logical question becomes why do rabbits lay eggs all of a sudden? This is, again, believed to be linked to fertility. Eggs are a symbol of fertility. Over time, these two symbols were merged, and the Easter Bunny became famous for laying colorful eggs to bring to the good boys and girls of the world.
The Myth of Ostara
Although a less popular theory, some people associated the Easter Bunny with the Goddess of Fertility, Ostara. She was worshiped by the German people in a pre-Christian society. This occurred in the 1300s. Her festivals were full of egg-laying bunnies and took place to also commemorate the Vernal Equinox. These festivals also included chicks and brightly-colored eggs. In fact, the rabbit was Ostara’s sacred animal, or so the story goes.
The story of how Ostara started the Easter Bunny is a quick and fascinating one. She simply arrived late to start Spring one year and found a poor, frozen bird dying. Feeling guilty, she transformed him into a snow hare so he was better suited for the elements. To honor his former life, she granted him the ability to lay colorful eggs. She regretted these choices when she learned of his numerous affairs. To punish him, she banned him to the sky to lay at Orion’s feet. This is where the constellation “The Hare” came from . Over time, she decided to ease up on him. She allows him to return to earth once a year to deliver his colorful eggs to the good boys and girls.
Whether you believe this is what happened, the story that our ancestors told, or has nothing to do with Easter, you have to admit it is a pretty interesting story.
The Role of the Catholic Church
In their attempt to merge many different cultures, the Catholic Church began incorporating many other traditions into their own. It is widely believed that they are responsible for combining Pagan and German traditions with their story of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Elements of spring were thrown in as well. Over time, the combination began to seem more and more natural, as all of these things were associated with new beginnings.
The actual origins of the Easter Bunny and rabbits and eggs being associated with the holiday may never be known. That being said, these symbols have become fun and important parts of the holiday. Although they are not part of the religious sermons you will hear that day, they are widely accepted to be an important part of celebrating Easter. For more quirky bunny posts check out this interesting facts post.