Easter Traditions…Easter Bunny and Colored Eggs

Happy Easter egg treeEaster is on April 20th this year, and  Colored Eggs  and the Easter Bunny are traditions recognized as part of the celebration.  For Christians, Easter is a deeply religious holiday, celebrating the day Jesus arose from the dead after the Crucifixion. It has also become an event with chocolate rabbits, coloring of eggs, and Easter baskets. There are a few legends that may explain how this came to be a part of Easter.

Ancient Legends

German Easter BunnyEaster Bunny Symbol from Germany

The Bunny as an Easter symbol was first mentioned in German writings in the 1500’s. The first edible Easter Bunnies were made of pastry and sugar during the early 1800’s. Originating among the German Lutherans, the Easter Hare originally played the role of a judge, evaluating whether children were good or disobedient in behavior at the start of Eastertide. Sometimes The Easter Bunny was depicted with clothes. According to legend, the creature carries eggs in a basket, candy & sometimes toys to the homes of children the night before Easter.This custom was first mentioned in George Franck von Franckenau’s De ovis paschalibus (About Easter Eggs) in 1682.

The custom was introduced to American folklore by German settlers who arrived in the Pennsylvania Dutch country during the 1700’s. The children believed that if they were good the “Oschter Haws” would lay a nest of colored eggs. The children would build their nest in a secluded place in the home, like the barn or garden.  Boys would use their caps and girls their bonnets to make the nests. More elaborate Easter baskets would come later as the tradition of the Easter Bunny spread throughout the country.

Eostre…German Goddess of Spring and Fertility

eostre5Eostre, the goddess of spring and fertility, seems to have been the divinity of the radiant dawn, of upspringing light, a spectacle that brings joy and blessing. The Blessings of Jesus and the Resurrection Day bring great joy to Christians….A Renewal!

According to Folklore, Eostre found a bird dying from the cold and turned it into a rabbit so its fur would keep it warm – but that rabbit still laid eggs like a bird. In one version of the story, the bunny paints and decorates the eggs as a gift to Eostre to show his loyalty and love. This is according to Brandi Auset, the author of The Goddess Guide.  It’s possible this story is the reason that bunnies and birds – and chicks, if you ask the company that makes the popular Peeps marshmallow candies – are connected with the holiday.

Egg Sunday in Western Europe

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA“Christians have historically prepared themselves for Easter by forgoing ordinary dietary items, such as meat, eggs, and milk.”, says Anne Kathryn Killinger, the author of An Inner Journey to Easter. “For many years, Easter was known in Western Europe as Egg Sunday, for eating eggs on that day was one of its joys. “Those eggs were often lined with colored straw to resemble a bird’s nest, thanks again to Eostre.”

Tradition of Chocolate Eggs

chocolate Easter Eggs“The tradition of chocolate eggs began in the 19th century France and Germany. and soon spread to the rest of Europe and eventually to the United States.”. says Katherine Tegen, the author of The Story of the Easter Bunny“To receive the special Easter eggs, children were told to make nests from hats or baskets so the Easter Bunny could leave them there.” Anne Killinger says that many Christians were also eager to eat chocolate on Easter because it’s a common modern-day sacrifice during Lent.

Ancient Symbols of Rebirth or Resurrection

east-european-egg-maidenAmong the most ancient symbols of rebirth or resurrection was the colored and ornately decorated egg. In the Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches, eggs are dyed red in recognition of the blood  of the sacrificed Christ. Some also use the color green, in honor of the new foliage emerging after the dead of winter. The Ukrainian art of decorating eggs for Easter, know as pysanky, dates to ancient, pre-Christain times. Similar variants of this form of art is seen in other Eastern European cultures.

The Hare and the Rabbit…Symbols of New Life during the Spring Season

Eggs, like rabbits and hares, are Fertility Symbols of antiquity. Birds lay eggs and rabbits & hares give birth to large litters in the early Spring. Rabbits and hares are both prolific breeders. These become symbols of the rising fertility of the earth at the March Equinox.

Through the years, There have been multiple stories and legends involving hares and rabbits. Despite their similarities, these creatures actually differ in many ways.

Rabbit CollageRabbits

Hare CollageHares

DYK  the following about Rabbit and Hares?

  • Baby Rabbits are called KittensBaby-Hares are called Leverets
  • Rabbits are born completely Helpless, Naked & Blind…Hares are born fully furred, able to see & capable of independent movement.
  • Rabbit’s Mothers are very protective , lining their nest with grass, bark & soft stems, even lining the nest with hair from their own bodies. They also cover them with their hair & dead plants to keep them safe & hidden from enemies…Hare’s Mothers feel free to leave them on the bare ground and hop away soon after the baby is born
  • Hares are generally larger, and have longer hind legs than rabbits and longer ears with characteristic black markings.
  • The skulls of rabbits and hares are different.
  • Rabbits prefer to eat soft stems, grass, or vegetables…Hares eat more hard food:bark and rind, buds, small twigs and shoot.
  • Rabbits usually live in Burrows or Tunnels in the ground, where they prefer to stay during daylight hours. They try to keep hidden…Hares always stay on the surface among plants & usually try to escape enemies by running.
  • Rabbits are social animals; they live in colonies. Male rabbits fight within the group to become the Dominant Male that then mates with most of the females in the area…Hares live most of the time by themselves. They come together in pairs for mating only. There is almost no fighting among Hares – They just Pair Off.

These amazing creatures are both inspirations to many stories.

History_BYDK_Easter_SF_HD_still_624x352There are many other legends about how the Easter Bunny and Easter Eggs came to be in our culture. Whatever the reasons, it is Fun to have them be a part of our Easter celebrations!  Coloring Easter Eggs, going on Egg Hunts, and Rolls  and making Easter Baskets are ongoing traditions. Of Course, kids love to see the Easter Bunny! They make it Egg-ceptionally Fun!

Credits to this article to: S. Elena’s Rabbits & Hares. No more confusion!Wikipedia…Josey Miller’s  Easter Traditions, Explained & Easter Bunny History at Easter Bunny’s.Net  


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