On Easter morning, kids will be seen scampering throughout the yard, gardens, or parks, looking for a basket full of eggs, candy, and maybe some little toys amongst the goodies. On the eve before the Easter Bunny had visited, leaving baskets for the children. This is a traditional Christian holiday custom. Some may wonder and ponder over this custom. Why a bunny for Easter?
George Franck von Franckenau (1643 - 1704) was a German physician and botanist. In De ovis paschalibus (About the Easter Egg), he expressed concern over too much egg in the diet. He referred to an Alsace tradition of the Easter Hare delivering eggs on Easter. His publication mentioned the tradition came from Alsace, which was in southwestern Germany until 1639 when most of Alsace was conquered by France. Apparently it was in Alsace and the Upper Rhineland where the origins of this custom began. Both areas were in the Holy Roman Empire at that time.
The bunny as an Easter symbol seems to have its origins in Germany, where it was first mentioned in German writings in the 1500s. German settlers who arrived in the Pennsylvania Dutch country during the 1700s introduced the Easter bunny to American folklore.
Both rabbits and eggs have been a symbol of fertility since antiquity. Spring time is also symbolic of new beginnings, new birth. The egg has long been a symbol of the Ressurection -- this signifies new birth, for from the egg a bird hatches.
Rabbits and hares are prolific breeders and if one pays close attention, these critters go through very active rituals in the spring to mate. They run around chasing each other, males fight with other males to become the victor over a chosen female, and all are running hither and thither with great speed and comical antics. They seem to come from everywhere. It is no wonder why the rabbit would have been chosen for the one to bring eggs in the spring for Easter.
The Catholic custom of abstaining from eggs during Lent, caused a massive abundance of eggs at Easter time. Thus the rabbit enters into Easter folklore with baskets of eggs.
How did the custom of coloring eggs for Easter come into the picture? Traditionally the eggs were colored red to symbolize the sacrifice Christ gave with his own blood. Some times eggs were colored green to symbolize new foliage emerging after the cold dark months of winter. One way people in early times brought spring into their homes was to boil eggs with the flowers of spring (another symbol of new birth). The eggs took on the color of the flowers.
The Persian culture also has a tradition of egg decorating, which takes place during the spring equinox. This time marks the Persian New Year, and is referred to as Norouz. Family members decorate eggs together and place them in a bowl. Some believe it is from this cultural tradition that the Christian practice originates. In America, some families gather the evening before Easter and color their eggs. The mother or grandmother then place the eggs out for the Bunny to hide along with other goodies.
Originally, in the old countries, children would make nests in the garden in their caps or bonnets in hopes that the Easter Hare would find these little nests and lay colored eggs in them. Only those children who had been good received eggs in their nests.
From simple colors of pastel to elaborately decorated art work (like the Ukrainian Easter eggs pictured here), colored eggs have become a major part of the Easter tradition.
1907 Easter Postcard
Public Domain, Wikipedia
Ukrainian Easter Eggs
Public Domain, Wikipedia