It may surprise many to learn that the Easter bunny has its origin in pre-Christian fertility lore. The rabbit was one of the most fertile animals known and it served as a symbol of the new life during the spring season. The hare or bunny as an Easter symbol seems to have it’s origins in Germany, where it was first mentioned in German writings in the 1500s. It is believed that the first edible Easter bunnies were made in Germany during the early 1800s. These delicious confections were made of pastry and sugar.
The Easter bunny was introduced into American folklore by the German settlers who arrived in the Pennsylvania Dutch country during the 1700s. The arrival of the “Oschter Haws” was considered one of childhood’s greatest pleasures. The children believed that if they were good the “Oschter Haws” would lay a nest of colored eggs.
The children would hurriedly build their nests in a secluded place in the home, the barn or the garden. Boys would use their caps and girls their bonnets to make the nests (hence the tradition of the Easter bonnet). The use of elaborate Easter baskets would come much later as the tradition of the Easter bunny spread through out the country.
But the Easter bunny is not just an American holiday custom. People all over the world whether celebrating the religious or secular aspects of Easter use some form of the Easter bunny. Here are just a few-
· Australia-In Australia Easter is celebrated with public holidays, church services, eggs, rabbits and fun. An interesting note is that it is celebrated in March or April, which is autumn unlike other countries in the Northern Hemisphere where it is spring. Australians eagerly look forward to the Easter holidays, which is the end of summer. Children especially love Easter eggs, chocolate rabbits, chocolate bilbies and time together with the family. Many Australians prefer the Bilby as the symbol for Easter as it is native to Australia. This is also due to the fact that the introduction of the rabbit has destroyed land, crops, vegetation and burrows of other native Australian species.
· Sweden-Easter is not as big a celebration as Christmas, but schools have a holiday for about one week before Easter. Many people celebrate the religious aspects of Easter. People like to decorate their houses with the Easter colors; yellow, green and white. People eat almost the same food that they eat at Christmas, but much more candy. The Easter Bunny is a major part of the celebrations. The bunny ‘hides’ the Easter eggs the night before Easter Sunday in the houses and the children search for the eggs the next day. Many of the eggs are made of cardboard, and inside each one is candy.
· England-Many people in England celebrate Easter by the giving and receiving of Easter Eggs. Older people may exchange things like money, clothes, chocolate or go on holidays together. The Easter bunny is a big part of the Easter tradition in England and the shops are filled with thousands which people buy to give to each other. The tradition holds that the Easter bunny ‘hides’ the eggs in the houses and children on Easter Sunday search to find these treats.
· Germany-Easter in Germany is at the end of March or at the beginning of April and is always on a Sunday or a Monday. This a large and widely celebrated holiday in Germany that begins many times with a large bonfire announcing the end of winter and the beginning of better times. Many people take time off from their jobs at this time of the year to spend with family and friends. On Easter Sunday families typically have nice breakfasts together. Parents then hide Easter baskets with sweets, eggs and small presents. To begin the search parents say “The Easter Bunny has hidden the Easter basket, now you have to find them”.