Come Easter, children and adults will go egg hunting, celebrate the resurrection of Christ with a meal and receive special Easter candy from the Bunny. Let’s find out how the Easter Bunny became the holiday symbol in the United States.
Mysterious Symbol Of Easter
There are a lot of different Easter traditions all over the world. For example, Slovak and Czech's men have to whip girls or douse them with water to grant beauty and fertility. In Finland, girls dress up as Easter Witches. And in the U.S., children leave carrots for the Bunny. In response, they receive chocolate and other holiday candy! So, how did the bunny become such a huge part of this Christian holiday? There’s nothing about it in the Bible. Turns out, the German immigrants probably brought the animal to America. When they arrived in Pennsylvania, the egg-laying hare called “Osterhase” or “Oschter Haws” came with them and never left. Moreover, their children made nests for the animal, where it could lay eggs.
Since then, the Easter Bunny is known to eat carrots and lay eggs. After custom was established in the 1700s, parents added chocolate eggs and bunnies to the list of Easter candy. Soon, children would leave carrots for the Easter Bunny and receive gifts or candy in a basket – it was a more convenient variant of the nest. Yet, there are other theories about where that custom could come from. It's still a big mystery for the Americans, and the animal could also be a part of another old tradition: the pagan festival of Easter Sunday.
Let’s dive in…
Whereas the Bible doesn’t have any bunnies (except mentioning that they are not kosher and Christians shouldn’t eat them), there’s one pagan tradition one should know. Called “the festival of Eostre,” it always had a rabbit symbol attached to it. In fact, the goddess of fertility had a bunny as her spirit animal. Why is that? Rabbits are great breeders. As long as they’ve been on this planet, they’ve symbolized fertility. “Rabbits (originally hares) are longstanding fertility symbols associated with the arrival of spring because they are so prolific and give birth as soon as the weather warms,” notes Diane Shane Fruchtman, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Religion at Rutgers University.
As for the egg decoration, it began back in the 13th century during the holiday parade. It's deeply rooted in American customs, just like eating candy – eggs represent new life. Before the current traditions settled in, people used to skip eggs during Lent. Then, they could once again enjoy them during Easter. In other countries, eggs were a highly valuable present. Although there’s a whole variety of other Easter Bunny stories, Americans have already accepted it as the beloved holiday tradition. “Even if your typical Easter sermon won’t include anything about rabbits, eggs, or fertility, that’s not to say that the Easter Bunny and Easter eggs are not religious traditions,” says Fruchtman. “Religion is about far more than doctrine, texts, belief, and sacred buildings; it’s about practices, community, memory, family, home, and traditions that have meaning to you.”
Apart from hares and bunnies, foxes, bilbies, and cuckoo birds are also popular choices for an Easter animal.