Where’d the Easter bunny come from, after all?

Today is widely celebrated as Easter Sunday, the day that Christians believe Jesus Christ rose from the dead – on the third day after being crucified.
But if the holiday is supposed to focus on Christ and his resurrection from the dead, have you ever wondered what’s up with all the bunnies and eggs?

I’ve done a bit of research lately about the origins of Easter (more here) and came across the following About.com article on how the Easter bunny and eggs tie into all of it. I thought it was an interesting read and worth sharing, especially since we saw someone dressed up as an Easter bunny and kids having an egg hunt at a local park this morning and then we had our own egg hunt in the yard for Ava this afternoon. (She LOVED it by the way. Pics will follow at a later time, of course.) :)

Ostara’s Hare
From Jennifer Emick
The Pagan origins of the Easter Bunny

Have you ever wondered where the celebration of the Christian holiday celebrating the resurrection of Christ acquired its unusual name and odd symbols of colored eggs and rabbits?

The answer lies in the ingenious way that the Christian church absorbed Pagan practices. After discovering that people were more reluctant to give up their holidays and festivals than their gods, they simply incorporated Pagan practices into Christian festivals. As recounted by the Venerable Bede, an early Christian writer, clever clerics copied Pagan practices and by doing so, made Christianity more palatable to pagan folk reluctant to give up their festivals for somber Christian practices.

In second century Europe, the predominate spring festival was a raucous Saxon fertility celebration in honor of the Saxon Goddess Eastre (Ostara), whose sacred animal was a hare.

The colored eggs associated with the bunny are of another, even more ancient origin. The eggs associated with this and other Vernal festivals have been symbols of rebirth and fertility for so long the precise roots of the tradition are unknown, and may date to the beginning of human civilization. Ancient Romans and Greeks used eggs as symbols of fertility, rebirth, and abundance- eggs were solar symbols, and figured in the festivals of numerous resurrected gods.

Pagan fertility festivals at the time of the Spring equinox were common- it was believed that at this time, when day and night were of equal length, male and female energies were also in balance. The hare is often associated with moon goddesses; the egg and the hare together represent the god and the goddess, respectively.

Moving forward fifteen hundred years, we find ourselves in Germany, where children await the arrival of Oschter Haws, a rabbit who will lay colored eggs in nests to the delight of children who discover them Easter morning. It was this German tradition that popularized the ‘Easter bunny’ in America, when introduced into the American cultural fabric by German settlers in Pennsylvania.

Many modern practitioners of Neo-pagan and earth-based religions have embraced these symbols as part of their religious practice, identifying with the life-affirming aspects of the spring holiday. (The Neopagan holiday of Ostara is descended from the Saxon festival.) Ironically, some Christian groups have used the presence of these symbols to denounce the celebration of the Easter holiday, and many churches have recently abandoned the Pagan moniker with more Christian oriented titles like ‘Resurrection Sunday.’

Note: This post is not meant to criticize anyone’s beliefs or say they are wrong. To each, his/her own. :) I just wanted to share the information I found for those who might be curious to learn about the bunny and egg origins, as I was. Of course, if you have information to the contrary, you are welcome to share it too.

Hope everyone is having a lovely day! :) It’s sunny and in the 70s here and couldn’t be a more perfect spring day.

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5 thoughts on “Where’d the Easter bunny come from, after all?

  1. Hi Amy! I’m a blog buddy of Nelly’s – I’ve peeked in on you a few times but dont know if I’ve ever commented. If not, HI!

    I knew about the Christianity – Paganism connection with the Easter (and other holidays) symbols we commonly use today – almost did a similar post myself (great minds think alike?) I love this kind of stuff. Useless unless you’re going to be on Jeopardy, but really interesting! :D

    Hope you’re enjoying your springtime! Take care!

  2. I find that the pagan connection and symbology with current Christian traditions to be quite interesting. I remember that the Dan Brown books, such as Angels & Demons and Davinci Code touched upon some examples as well. I relate more with the pagan rituals myself…

  3. You know, the biblical Esther was named after the same goddes–Ishtar, as some spell it, the goddess of love and fertility. Of course Esther wasn’t her real (original) name. Easter is one of the few holidays that actually kept its original name when the church appropriated it.

  4. glad some of you found this info interesting as well. :)

    hi clew – welcome to my blog! i think you may have commented once before – quite a ways back. glad to have ya join me.

    amy – i relate more w/ the pagan rituals myself as well, even though i was raised catholic. it’s funny how your views of things can change significantly the older you get.

    PK – thanks for chiming in too. :) it’s frustrating to me that femininity and fertility are no longer celebrated as they used to be before christianity, but that’s another beef for another time. ;)

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