If you take a look at what Easter is actually about, its important religious significance, and the fact that is considered by many theologians to be the holiest day of the year, you might be wondering where the Easter Bunny came from. Of course Easter is the holiest holiday – it marks the resurrection of Christ.
You do not have to be a devout Catholic to know that part. The question is – where did this magical bunny come from that delivers baskets of colorful, delicious goodies to children around the world every morning?
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Easter Marks The Resurrection of Christ; No Bunnies Are Mentioned
Easter celebrates the resurrection of Christ from the dead. The resurrection occurred on the third day of his burial after his crucifixion by the Romans. The following is a summary of the resurrection of Christ, as published on christianbiblereference.org.
“Jesus’ body was hastily placed in a tomb on Friday afternoon. There was no time to properly prepare the body for burial with spices and ointments according to Jewish customs. No work could be done on the Sabbath, so that task had to wait until Sunday.
Early Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene and several other women went to the tomb with the spices they had prepared. When they arrived, they found the tomb had been opened already. When they went in, they did not find Jesus’ body, and they wondered what had happened.
Suddenly, two angels in dazzling white clothes were there. The women were terrified, but the angels said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He has risen! Remember how He told you that He would be turned over to sinful men, be crucified, and rise again on the third day!”
2. You Won’t Find The Easter Bunny In The Bible, Yet He’s Been Around For Awhile
The Bible fails to mention a magical bunny who delivers decorated eggs to well-behaved children on Easter Sunday. However, like Santa Claus and Christmas, the Easter Bunny has become an iconic symbol of Christianity’s most important holiday.
Where did the myth of the Easter Bunny originate? No one knows for sure. That said, rabbits, known to be prolific procreators, hence the crass expression, ahem, “make love like rabbits”, are an ancient symbol of fertility and birth.
Some historians believe that the Easter bunny first showed up in American culture in the 1700s with German immigrants who told their children of a mythical creature known as “Osterhase” or “Oschter Haws.” Their kids made nests in which the Osterhase could lay its colorful eggs.
This strange yet charming custom soon spread across the country, and the magical Easter Bunny was soon making morning deliveries of baskets filled with brightly colored eggs, chocolate and other treats. In exchange, children began leaving out carrots for the Easter Bunny to snack on. After all, the bunny must have been tired from traveling.
3. Rabbits & Hares Are Popular Symbols
Rabbits, bunnies and hares are frequent images in Biblical art, as are lambs and certain birds.
“Rabbits are common and found on every continent except Antarctica. Rabbits are also prolific breeders, especially in the spring when they are most commonly seen interacting with one another. As a result of their fertility, rabbits have long been associated with spring and with new life. Even the Greeks pointed out this connection.
However, the Christian tradition of the Easter Bunny has distinctly Christian origins.
The ancient Greeks thought rabbits could reproduce as virgins. Such a belief persisted until early medieval times when the rabbit became associated with the Virgin Mary, who we know became pregnant without knowing man.
During the medieval period, rabbits began appearing in illuminated manuscripts and paintings where the Virgin Mary was depicted, serving as an allegorical illustration of her virginity.
The Easter Bunny was first popularized as a symbol of the season by the German Protestants. It is likely they were the ones to invent the myth of the Easter Bunny for their children. Even in earliest folklore, the Easter Bunny came as a judge, hiding decorated eggs for well-behaved children,” describes catholic.org.
4. Some Believe The Easter Bunny Is a Pagan Symbol
In the last two hundred years, the Christian holy-day has become more and more of a secular folk holiday. By the 1890s, the pagan and folk aspects of Easter as a celebration of spring were fully established and commercially exploited in America.
New clothes, parades, candy, and egg hunts have become key cultural expressions, even though the number of people celebrating the religious significance of the holiday declined in the last half of the twentieth century.
In the end, the Easter bunny has nothing to do with Jesus directly. There is nothing in the Bible or Christian tradition that links the two together. Yet still, the “pagan” associations of the hare and rabbit with fertility, life, death, and rebirth remained near enough to the cultural surface to find expression alongside the powerful religious claim that Jesus had conquered death.
5. There Are Important Lessons That Can Be Learned From The Easter Bunny
What qualities does the Easter Bunny have? Does he have any in common with Christ? Some might argue “yes” based on the following.
The Easter Bunny is is sympathetic and comforting, he exhibits honorable behavior, he shows friendship, he demonstrates loyalty, he has compassion, he is benevolent, he is courteous, and he is hospitable.
These are all qualities of Christ that anyone, not just a Christian person, tends to follow. Being nice. Being kind. Being generous. Bringing comfort to those in need. It may be a bit of a stretch, but what could be a better example than the Easter Bunny? He brings joy and comfort to children. He delights them with treats, and he demands nothing in turn. Yes, the Easter Bunny you meet at the mall may not be much more than a man (or woman) in a suit, but it is not too much of a stretch to suggest that the Easter Bunny has many of the good qualities honored by Christians, and people of all religions. The religion of “be kind to strangers. Be nice to people.”
So, in many ways, the way that the “Easter Bunny” behaves (and we are talking about the Easter Bunny that hugs children, gives them candy, and visits sick kids in the hospital) does indeed teach kindness to children. Christ-like or not, or devoid of religion altogether, the Easter Bunny embodies love, kindness and generosity.