Fictional and animated rabbits have been winning children’s hearts in cultures throughout the world for decades. Peter rabbit, Thumper, Lola bunny, Roger rabbit, Bugs bunny, White rabbit, Peter cottontail, Velveteen rabbit; the list goes on. These infectious lovable characters with big hearts, a bit of a mischievous streak, and a craving for carrots have delightfully made us laugh and smile, and still do.
Standing the test of time and the most famous of rabbits is the Easter bunny. As a legendary figure, the Easter bunny lives on, and just like its famous counterparts, continues to put smiles on children’s faces. So, how did the most famous rabbit in history emerge as a world-wide figure?
There are many stories and tales about how this annual tradition began. While Easter is a Christian holiday there are certain beliefs that hail from pagan origins rooted centuries ago. In the case of the Easter Bunny, the rabbit has long been associated with springtime. The rabbit’s status rose to new heights and became a symbol of fertility because of Vernal Equinox celebrations called Ostra or Eostre named after the goddess of dawn and springtime.
Many years later, the tradition of an Easter bunny in America started with German immigrants. Primarily because they saw the rabbit as Eostre’s special messenger. Breeding rabbits were a sign of spring. Purely folklore in nature, they brought their beliefs of an egg-laying rabbit called “Osterhase” or “Oschter Haws” during the 1700s when they settled in Pennsylvania. However, at that time children didn’t hunt for the eggs. Instead, they crafted nests so that the rabbit could lay its colored eggs.
Rooted in symbolism, the egg has come to represent rebirth and new life and is often associated with festivals and pagan celebrations. One theory is the tradition of coloring and eating eggs dates back to the ancient Egyptians and Persians that adopted the custom during their spring festival. It was also a common practice for them to gift family and friends with the brightly colored dyed eggs. For Christians the egg is a symbol of the tomb from where Jesus rose.
The tradition of hunting for eggs can be traced back to the beliefs of children. They believed that the Easter hare laid eggs in the grass. The idea of hiding the eggs in obscure places is a South German folk tradition. The Scottish are also known to have started a similar tradition around 1899. On Easter Sunday morning parents sent their children out to seek the eggs of wild fowl. To find one was considered a stroke of good luck.
Today, an Easter egg hunt is a popular activity celebrating the joys of spring. And, one that has evolved over time. Throughout the world smiling children attend countless springtime egg hunts and also consider it lucky to find hidden eggs. The choice of eggs run the gamut. Hard-boiled, chocolate, foil-wrapped, and colorful plastic varieties filled with prizes and sweet surprises. Eggs decorated in bright colors like red, yellow, green, pink, purple, striped, and multi-colored grace the outer shells in green, flowery fields, a definite sign that spring has sprung.