CHARLOTTE, NC. Honestly. Myth Trivia will actually attempt today to explain the origins of the Easter Bunny and the reasons why a rabbit or rabbits came to be associated with the Easter holiday. But in the end, the answer to this burning query will still remain rather vague.
Rabbits have long been part of pop culture. Think of Bugs Bunny, Peter Cottontail, Thumper, Oswald Rabbit, Crusader Rabbit, the March Hare and the Hare from “Hare and the Tortoise.” But that still doesn’t explain how the Easter Bunny became inextricably linked to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Any explanation for this is further complicated by the fact that as far as we know, there’s no available historical documentation defining any relationship between the two.
Birth, renewal, Resurrection and bunnies in springtime
That’s why most obvious and logical reason why the Easter Bunny’s appearance has to do with springtime itself. The season itself symbolizes of birth and renewal. It’s this eternal phenomenon that Christ represents in the Crucifixion and Resurrection arc. Rabbits were and are traditionally regarded as iconic symbols of spring. That is, of course, due to their well-known propensity for giving birth to multitudes of bunnies each spring when the weather gets warm.
Other than that “there’s no religious significance to a bunny being part of the Easter holiday,” says Diane Shane Fruchtman, PhD, Assistant Professor of Religion, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey.
Passover brings additional symbolism to this time of year
Looking more closely at the Resurrection, nearly everyone today — even nonbelievers — knows that Easter celebrates the Resurrection of Jesus, according to the New Testament Gospels. But Easter also generally dovetails on the calendar with an equally momentous Jewish religious observance: Passover.
The traditional Passover Seder pays homage to the exodus from Egypt by the Israelites. As such, eggs may have been an important part of the Passover Seder plate at the Last Supper, as they are today. That theory explains the additional significance of the egg in the Easter tradition. But eggs, either Passover or Easter, still keep rabbits and their associated mythologies hidden in their respective patches.
But now, back to the Easter Bunny, erk the Osterhase
References to the Easter Bunny date back before the 17th century. That’s when Germanic people created Osterhase (the Easter Hare), a Santa Claus-like rabbit that brought gifts to children during Easter.
The tradition continued in Pennsylvania when German immigrants settled in America in the 1700s. Much like leaving cookies and milk for Santa, children would leave carrots for the Osterhase to keep him well fed during his appointed rounds.
In the end, that German Easter Bunny must have been the size of the invisible rabbit Harvey made famous by the eponymous movie starring James Stewart.
How about Ostara?
One other theory about the Easter Bunny seems embedded in the myth of Ostara. According the 8th century scholar known to us as the Venerable Bede, the word “Easter” was derived from “Eostre,” which is yet another iteration of Ostara.
As Dr. Fruchtman explains,
“The seventh/eighth century English monk Bede says that the word comes from an Anglo-Saxon goddess, Eostre, whose feast-day in the spring coincided with the day of the Christian Paschal celebration. But no other source mentions Eostre, and it’s entirely possible that Bede made her up. But Bede makes no mention of rabbits or eggs being associated with her.”
It’s rather flimsy evidence at best, but it’s pretty much the best information available. And where are those missing eggs?
But we’re still missing the Easter Bunny and Easter Egg link
Suffice it to say, whether there is any definitive association between rabbits, eggs and the religious aspects of Easter is of little consequence today. Spring is a still the season of renewal and optimism. In springtime, the world bursts forth in a fabulous array of blossoms and warm breezes. And rabbits.
Meanwhile, Easter Egg hunts, including that famous Easter Egg roll at the White House, will still remain as popular as ever. Ditto those wondrous chocolate bunnies. Especially the good ones made of solid chocolate and not those pale, hollow inside also-rans.
Perhaps the Cadbury company has more background stories explaining the traditions of Easter. But that doesn’t matter either, just so long as they keep making those delicious seasonal creme-filled chocolate eggs.
Dogma, doctrine, tradition and memories
Perhaps Dr. Fruchtman says it best when she explains,
“Religion is about far more than doctrine, texts, belief, and sacred buildings; it’s about practices, community, memory, family, home, and traditions that have meaning to you.”
Then again, if you want to start something yourself, you could launch a tradition of your own. Like Linus did with the “Great Pumpkin.” What about the idea of having an Easter Tree for example?
In the end, the secret origins and existence of the Easter Bunny and Easter eggs are interesting to ponder during the season. But both are probably better to eat anyway.
It’s a wrap
In conclusion, we must admit that our Myth Trivia partial answer to what lies behind the Easter Bunny is obscure at best. And definitely incomplete. But it’s the best that we can do in 2019.
So for now, we take our leave, remembering the famous final words uttered by Porky Pig after Elmer Fudd has once again been foiled by that “Wascally wabbit,” Bugs Bunny. Porky happily shouts, “”Th-Th-The, Th-Th-The, Th-Th… That’s all, folks!”
And that’s all from us. For now. And a happy holiday to you all.
—Headline image: The Easter Bunny. Image via Pixabay.com. Public domain.
About the Author:
Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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