The text of this post was first published in 2009 and we are featuring it again on this Easter holiday.
On Sunday, Catholics [Ed.- and Orthodox Christians] around the world will commemorate the holiday of Easter- the day Jesus resurrected from the dead. Yet there’s also the view of Easter as one filled with eggs and a certain ubiquitous bunny. (And yes, it’s possible to celebrate both as I recall my childhood Easters going to church then decorating eggs after returning home!)
There has always been one detail that has nagged me: how did the Easter Bunny come about? Thankfully, the always informative Mental Floss website explains the origins. Much like the Virgen de Guadalupe, the Easter Bunny was born due to a combination of spiritual beliefs:
Many pagan cultures held spring festivals to celebrate this renewal of life and promote fertility. One of these festivals was in honor of Eostre or Eastre, the goddess of dawn, spring and fertility near and dear to the hearts of the pagans in Northern Europe. Eostre was closely linked to the hare and the egg, both symbols of fertility.So now you know!
As Christianity spread, it was common for missionaries to practice some good salesmanship by placing pagan ideas and rituals within the context of the Christian faith and turning pagan festivals into Christian holidays (e.g. Christmas). The Eostre festival occurred around the same time as the Christians’ celebration of Christ’s resurrection, so the two celebrations became one, and with the kind of blending that was going on among the cultures, it would seem only natural that the pagans would bring the hare and egg images with them into their new faith (the hare later became the more common rabbit).
The pagans hung on to the rabbit and eventually it became a part of Christian celebration. We don’t know exactly when, but it’s first mentioned in German writings from the 1600s. The Germans converted the pagan rabbit image into Oschter Haws, a rabbit that was believed to lay a nest of colored eggs as gifts for good children.
Video Source - YouTube user Carolina Arellano (Fanesca is a traditional Ecuadorian soup or stew prepared once each year on Easter that typically contains ingredients like bacalao or salted cod and a variety of grains).
Online Sources - Mental Floss; Wikipedia; The Latin Americanist