The Easter Bunny – What’s that all about then?
This time of year we often find ourselves asking, why the hell does a bunny deliver eggs at Easter?
There is not a definitive reason as, like so many things in the UK, our culture is a melting pot of multiple traditions, but here is what we found out.
Rabbits (as prolific breeders) are simple fertility symbols, adopted by many faiths and cultures to mark the start of Spring (much like eggs are). The Easter bunny specifically seems to have originated in Germany. A professor named Georg Franck von Frankenau, in 1682, wrote of a tradition in Alsace (and neighbouring regions) of hiding Easter Eggs in the grass and shrubs for children to find.
This German Easter ‘bunny’ was, in fact, a bizarre egg-laying hare, called either “Osterhase” or “Oschter Haws”. This little fellow was, much like Santa, a judge of children’s behavior and would reward them accordingly. There is some evidence that children made nests for Oschter Haws, in which to lay his/ her coloured eggs. But what was this creature, who was clearly a mammal (and possibly male) doing laying eggs in the first place, I hear you ask?
Well, many ancient writers and philosophers (like Pliny & Plutarch) believed that the hare was a hermaphrodite… and it was this conception that led to the hare’s association with Christianity. The idea that he/ she could reproduce without the loss of virginity led to an association with the Virgin Mary, and hares then became a common illustration in manuscripts and paintings of Mary in Northern Europe, as well as sometimes representing the Holy Trinity (symbolised as three hares).
The motif of the Easter Bunny spread loads in popular culture with commercial use and probably, as the tradition got displaced, so it altered to suit the region (we have more rabbits than hares in the UK, so we get a rabbit).
In other countries the Easter hare turned in to different animals – mostly birds (which makes lots more sense of the eggs) like a cuckoo in Switzerland and a rooster in Holland.
This year we really don’t mind which gift giving animal visits … just so long as he’s bringing chocolate.
The Easter Rooster from Holland – makes a ton more sense if you think about it…