Monday, April 25, 2011
THE HISTORY OF THE EASTER BUNNY!!
Children look forward to Spring and the arrival of the Easter bunny. Easter signifies the warm weather is coming, is the first big holiday since Christmas and who doesn't like jelly beans and chocolate bunnies? There are sever theories and legends around where the tradition of the Easter bunny began and how colored eggs became a part of it.
Once theory, according to Wikipedia, is that the Easter bunny or "Osterhause" as it is called in German, first originated in Western German cultures where it had traveled from the Upper Rhineland during the Holy Roman Empire. German children would leave their caps and bonnets out where the rabbit could find them and make a nest to leave brightly colored eggs. This tradition crossed the seas to the American colonies, where all children picked up the custom and started to observe it. The bright colored "Easter grass" we see in baskets today is a throw back to this custom.
Since birds lay eggs in the Spring and rabbits give birth to large litters in the Spring, the egg became a symbol of Spring and fertility. Who better to deliver it than a new bunny? The coloring became symbolic of all the colors of Spring flowers. However, the Eastern Orthodox Church only dyes its eggs red to represent the blood shed by Christ as he was crucified.
For those who celebrate Easter as a lunar holiday rather than a religious one, the origins go back to the fast that Easter is always the first Sunday after the first full moon after Spring Equinox. Easter gets its name from the goddess of Spring, Eostre (pronounced Estra). She is the goddess of fertility and also was said to have always traveled with a companion, a white rabbit. Legend says she gave the rabbit the ability to lay brightly colored eggs once a year, in the Spring, and from this came our Easter eggs. This legend also appears in German folklore where they say she became angry with the rabbit and cast him into the heavens where he remains as the constellation Lepus the Hare, which is located at the feet of Orion.
There are many legends relating the full moon, fertility and the rabbit. The Chinese believe that rabbits, like the moon, can change their sex. Often in Chinese symbols there will be a rabbit leaping across the face of the moon. This is a fertility symbol. Since Spring is the time of birth and fertility of the land, the moon and rabbits are associated with it.