The History of a Bunny & His Eggs
When we celebrate Easter, many of us gather with loved ones, but why an egg-hiding bunny on Easter? Where’d the idea come from?
The Easter Bunny (also called the Easter Rabbit or Easter Hare) is a fantasy character depicted as a rabbit bringing Easter eggs. Originating among 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. The Easter Bunny is sometimes depicted with clothes. In legend, the creature carries colored eggs in his basket, candy and sometimes toys to the homes of children, and shows similarities to Santa Claus, as they both bring gifts to children on the night before their respective holiday. The custom was first mentioned in Georg Franck von Franckenau’s De ovis paschalibus (About Easter Eggs).
The Bible makes no mention of a long-eared, short-tailed creature, nevertheless, the Easter bunny has become a prominent symbol of Christianity’s most important holiday. The exact origins of this mythical mammal are unclear, but rabbits, known to be prolific procreators, are an ancient symbol of fertility and new life. According to some sources, the Easter bunny first arrived in America in the 1700s with German immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania and transported their tradition of an egg-laying hare called “Osterhase” or “Oschter Haws.” Their children made nests in which this creature could lay its colored eggs. Eventually, the custom spread across the U.S. and the fabled rabbit’s Easter morning deliveries expanded to include chocolate and other types of candy and gifts, and decorated baskets replaced the nests. Children often left out carrots for the bunny in case he got hungry from all his hopping.
Easter is a religious holiday, but some of its customs, such as Easter eggs, are likely linked to pagan traditions. The egg, an ancient symbol of new life, has been associated with pagan festivals celebrating spring. From a Christian perspective, Easter eggs are said to represent Jesus’ emergence from the tomb and resurrection. Decorating eggs for Easter is a tradition that dates back to at least the 13th century, according to some sources. One explanation for this custom is that eggs were formerly a forbidden food during the Lenten season, so people would paint and decorate them to mark the end of the period of penance and fasting, then eat them on Easter as a celebration.
Easter egg hunts and egg rolling are two popular egg-related traditions. In the U.S., the White House Easter Egg Roll, a race in which children push decorated, hard-boiled eggs across the White House lawn, is an annual event held the Monday after Easter. The first official White House egg roll occurred in 1878, when Rutherford B. Hayes was president. The event has no religious significance, though some consider egg rolling symbolic of the stone blocking Jesus’ tomb being rolled away, leading to his resurrection.
Easter is the second best-selling candy holiday in America, after Halloween of course. The most popular candy associated with this day are chocolate eggs. Eggs have been banded with Easter as a symbol of new life and Jesus’ resurrection. The jelly bean is another popular candy and became associated with Easter in the 1930s. According to the National Confectioners Association, over 16 billion jelly beans are made in the U.S. each year for Easter. That’s enough to fill a giant egg measuring 89 feet high and 60 feet wide. During the past decade, the top-selling Easter candy has been the marshmallow Peep! Candy manufacturer Just Born began selling Peeps in the 1950s. The original Peeps were handmade, marshmallow-flavored yellow chicks, but other shapes and flavors were later introduced.
How do you celebrate Easter? Do you currently have an endless supply of Peeps?