The Easter Bunny Origins
“Here comes Peter Cottontail
Hoppin’ down the bunny trail
Hippity hoppin’, Easter’s on its way”
For years, centuries, millennia even, the Easter bunny has been visiting children, bestowing gifts of brightly coloured eggs on Easter morning. But where did this phenomena come from? An egg bearing rabbit with no association to the religious aspect of the holiday seems like quite a concoction of stories if you ask me.
So where did this blessed bunny come from? What are the roots to the Easter rabbit story? How and why the hell is a rabbit connected to eggs? And what does it have to do with the most religious day in the Christian calendar? Let’s find out.
The Christian Situation
Ok so I was today years old when I found out that none other than the virgin Mary herself is quite closely connected to rabbits and hares. The most iconic work of art created around this was made by renaissance painter, Titan, in 1530, entitled the Madonna of the Rabbit. You can now find this hanging out casually at the Louvre if you care to locate it for yourself
The hare symbolized Mary in two parts. Firstly the white colour of its fur symbolized her virtue and the fact that she was a virgin. Secondly, the animal’s known randy nature expressed the symbol of Mary’s fertility – the miraculous birth.
Mary’s relationship with a hare has existed in art for centuries. As such, conclusions have been drawn between this and the birth of the Easter bunny. So now that we know the Christian thoughts on the Easter bunny, where does the egg fit in?
This plays into my wheel house like a charm. Let me take you back to The medieval age. If you have been listening to this poddy from the get go, you would’ve heard me express my love for this age in the Questing Beast episode. Don’t ask me why, I just have a taste for that era I guess.
Back in medieval age, eggs were a staple food source for many. However, when lent came round, the people would stay away from eating these delicacies. They were given up as part of the Lenten sacrifice. As such, when Easter Sunday came around, the eggs would be blessed by the village priests and consumed with great lust as part of the Easter feast.
As such, it became common for embellished eggs to be swapped between family and friends on Easter. People would go to great lengths to dye and ornately decorate the little food stuffs as best they could.
In Russia, eggs were even bejewelled and encrusted lavishly in diamonds before being given as presents. These became known as Fabergé eggs. The third imperial Easter egg was lost for a period. However, it was recently discovered and sold to a private, anonymous collector. This egg is said to be valued at a whopping 33 million dollars.
As the tradition of giving eggs deepened over time, the wealthy began to bestow embellished eggs upon poor children within their villages. As such, the tradition of giving prettified eggs on Easter Sunday to children was born.
The Pagan Situation
As always, where a Christian holiday falls, a pagan tradition follows. Easter is no different. There are a few pagan accounts held accountable for Easter.
The first and most common is that of the celebration of Spring. This pagan ritual is said to coincide pleasantly with Easter, thus was adopted by the Christians to celebrate their most holy day.
However, this does not explain the damn rabbit. So, is there a relation to the Easter bunny with pagan tradition? Yes, yes and a million times yes! And possibly the best one yet.
However before I get into this let me just say that this a hotly debated topic as far as authenticity goes.
Ok spoiler out of the way let’s hop to it.
In paganism, there is a goddess of fertility who goes by a few names. However, she is known to many as either Ostara or Eostra – sounds vaguely familiar, don’t it.
There are a few accounts of Eostra’s relation to a bird, however, the one I’m about to share is my favourite.
Eostra was known for once finding an injured bird in the winter, whose wings had frozen. In compassion for the bird, she transformed it into a rabbit to give it a thick warm coat to withstand the cold. However, when the spring time came round, the rabbit did what rabbits to best. However, this rabbit laid eggs. This was due to the fact that is was a bird originally. As such, the egg bearing rabbit legend was born. Ostara then took the brightly coloured eggs and gifted them to her children.
Now as I mentioned earlier, this is a hotly debated topic amidst historians. However, one prominent figure did lend his voice towards the topic.
The Venerable Bede wrote in the 8th century that the name Easter stems from the goddess “Eostre” who gave her name to the “Eostur” month. Bede, also known as Saint Bede, Venerable Bede, and Bede the Venerable, was an English Benedictine monk at the monastery of St. Peter and its companion monastery of St. Paul in the Kingdom of Northumbria of the Angles.
This however has often been argued and poo pooed in the historical community in its own right. Scholars have even claimed that Bede liked to twist the truth and wasn’t known for reporting on the facts.
The Possible Easter Bunny Origins Situation
So, the tale of the Easter bunny is like the tail of a real rabbit. Fluffy and lacking substance. However, one of the most notable and realistic tales of where the Easter bunny came from stems back to ancient Germany. The oldest account of an egg baring rabbit stems from Germanic texts written in the 17th century.
However, the Ostern Hare was a hare known for delivering colourful eggs to children who were well behaved. Much like good old Saint Nick, the Easter Hare was suspected to keep a tab of all of the well behaved children and those who weren’t so nice.
When German settlers made their way to Pennsylvania, it wasn’t long before the tales of the Ostern Hare spread amidst the children of America, and thus, the Easter bunny tradition was born.
However, the origin of the German Easter Hare is unknown.
So, what does Abi think the Easter Bunny is?
Personally, I think it is an amalgamation of all of the above tales. My personal favourite is by far the pagan origin of Eostra and her saving the little bird. Perhaps that’s my inner animal lover coming out, but I’m a sucker for animal heroes.
There is no one solid tale stating “this is the Easter Bunny’s origins” so all have a good chance of being true.
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