Easter - Bunny?
Have you ever wondered exactly where in the world the “Easter Bunny” originated? Well, I have and thought you might have too, so here’s what I found. I hope you enjoy this slightly off-kilter bunny-themed post!
According to The Researcher’s Gateway, (article by Galen Scott, (1)), the pagan goddess Ostara was honored by pre-Christian Anglo-Saxons as the patroness of fertility, renewal, dawn, and the season Spring. They celebrated by holding feasts in her name during the month translated as “Easter Season”. Her name, according to the Venerable Bede (an 8th century scholar), became attached to the holiday (Holy Day) after they were converted because of the connection with the renewal theme of the Christian Resurrection of Christ. This assertion appears to have been based only on the Bede’s beliefs, and I haven’t found any evidence to support it. (This article didn’t name the author, (2)).
In ancient Greece, rabbits were believed to be able to give birth without being exposed to a male, and apparently this “fact” was held to be true well into the European Middle Ages! [ Some researchers think that this was due to the hares’ (but NOT rabbits’) ability to become pregnant twice (!). Hares can actually gestate two litters at different stages at the same time!] As a result of this observation, paintings of the Virgin Mary often showed her petting a rabbit, which symbolized purity. And of course Mary is an integral part of the whole Resurrection story. In the Old Testament of the Bible, Leviticus tells the people that hares are “unclean” in Chapter 11 verse 6. Apparently the lack of a divided hoof was the telling point here, and so that made hares inappropriate as table fare at the time. Yay, that was a bit of relief.
One of the famous Brothers Grimm, Jacob, wrote in 1835 that Ostara held hares as sacred, and he thought that the Easter Bunny was a corruption of the sacred hare.
Some early versions of a myth involving Ostara stated that she transformed her pet bird into either a rabbit or a hare, and that the transformed animal was still able to lay eggs like the bird it started out as being! A few of these versions held that Ostara performed this transformation to make children laugh, and then she gave the eggs to the children.
But the Easter Bunny we’re familiar with now, we owe to the Germans of the 16th century. They told their children that he hid decorated eggs, and that good children would find them. They encouraged their kids to make nests to attract the Easter Bunny to their home, and to leave out carrots for him to eat. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Pennsylvania Dutch and Germans who immigrated to the US brought our friend the Easter Bunny with them!
Easter itself has been related to the Babylonian Ishtar, goddess of sex and fertility. Apparently her symbols were rabbits and eggs, and so religious scholars have associated the holiday with this goddess. (Author not stated, (3)).One result of this association has been to discourage the celebration of Easter as a holiday, but solid proof of the relationship between the two appears to be hard to find. If the emperor Constantine had decided to continue the persecution of the early Christian church, and stick with his familys’ traditional polytheistic Roman religion, you have to wonder whether the Easter bunny would have ever managed to get so popular! Maybe if he’d kept up following the Sun god of his birth religion, we’d all be burning sacrificial Spam(™).
Today, however, we buy easter bunnies and eggs made of chocolate, candy, peanut butter and marshmallow. Then on Easter day, we eat them all. (Okay, some of us start eating them as soon as they’re in the stores.) Why? It’s our version of the feast in Spring to celebrate survival through a sometimes harsh and difficult Winter. Some of us still suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, which can be alleviated by using “daylight” bulbs in our lamps, getting outside even in crappy weather, and exercising. Our brains experience the “sugar rush” and that addiction is fueled by all the sweets we see in the grocery store.
Easter this year (2022) will fall on April 17th. The Easter season starts with Lent, which lasts for 40 days, and culminates in the Crucifixion and then celebration of the Resurrection of Christ. Each year Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first Spring full moon, so that’s why it changes every year.
If you can’t wait for Peeps and chocolate bunnies and peanut butter eggs, here’s a video showing you how to make your own marshmallow bunny, and you don’t have to wait for Easter, either!
I hope this rambling finds you well, and wish for you a Hoppy Easter and a lovely Spring and Summer!
LeslieAnne Hasty (The Cozy Hare)