You may be surprised to learn that the fluffy white bunny of Easter actually has a long standing history. The origin of the Easter bunny can actually be found in pre-Christian years as a fertility symbol. The reason for this is that both the hare and the rabbit were known as the most fertile animals. Because of this they were symbolic of new life, during the season of spring. Many different civilizations practiced pagan rituals around the symbol of the hare or rabbit. This would have long lasting effects on the development of the modern day Easter Bunny.
The actual connection of the Easter bunny to Easter, seem to have begun in Germany. Mentions of the Easter bunny are found in writings that date back to the 16th century. However, it was not until the early 1800’s that the first edible Easter bunnies were made, in Germany. And you may be surprised to learn that they were not made of chocolate, but of sugar and pastry. American folklore records that the Easter bunny was introduced in America by German immigrants. These settlers arrived during the 1700’s in the Pennsylvania Dutch country.
This tradition was highly prevalent among these early settlers. Children eagerly looked forward to the arrival of the”Oschter Haws”. It was considered “childhood’s greatest pleasure” next to a visit from Christ-Kindel on Christmas Eve. Young children believed that if they were good the “Oschter Haws” would lay a nest of colored eggs.
To prepare for the Easter bunny’s arrival the children would choose a secluded place in the home, barn or garden, to build a welcoming nest. Often time girls would use their bonnets to make the nests, while boys would lend their caps. It was until much later that the use of the elaborate Easter baskets, we know today, would come into use. This tradition remained much the same for several generations of German children, until it spread across the country.
The tradition of the Easter Bunny has some interesting similarities to Santa Claus. These early German settlers taught their children that the Easter Bunny would bring holiday gifts; much like Santa Claus does during Christmas. Children knew that as they built their nests, with their hat or bonnet, that they would only receive a visit, from the Easter Bunny if they had been good, (again much like Santa Claus). It is interesting to note that the modern Easter basket resulted from this early tradition of nest building. The Easter basket that often holds paper or plastic grass, gives a nod to those early nests. In addition, many families even leave out carrots for the Easter Bunny just like they leave milk and cookies, for Santa Claus.
It is also interesting to note that the Easter Bunny has always been believed to have lay eggs that are colored. This has a lot of symbolism as well. Coloring eggs is also considered an ancient springtime practice that has a lot of symbolisms. In Greece and many other countries, eggs are dyed red. They are dyed this color, because this is considered the color of blood and life, in many Eastern cultures. This color is also considered symbolic of new life in the springtime and is also associated by Christians as symbolic of the blood that Christ shed during the Easter season. Another popular color of Easter is green. This is thought to be because green is a reference to the new plant life and abundant growth in the springtime. In modern times, Easter eggs are dyed in many different colors. This is often done to symbolize the rainbow, which in the Judeo-Christian faith is considered a sign of new life and hope.