There’s the proverbial question of which came first the chicken or the egg, but many precocious children ask why he is bunny and not a chicken? Bunnies don’t lay eggs.
A deep dive will deliver the news that the hare (which is much different than a rabbit) goes back millennia. Here’s a brief explanation. In those days, the world at large was pagan. They had festivals and gods for everything. Of special meaning was the spring goddess Eostre.
In AD 535, the Pope sent a colony of monks from Rome to convert the pagans of England and Germany to Christianity. He was adamant that they be allowed to retain their traditions and festivals, and many would become Christian celebrations. After all, there were plenty of Saints that could assume the roles of the various pagan gods.
As everywhere in the world, spring is always celebrated as a time of new beginnings and renewal. Trees and flowers bloom, grass grows, fields are planted, and new life is everywhere. Eostre was known to have a hare for a companion. For obvious reasons, due to hares and rabbits’ proclivity for reproduction, the hare continued to be associated with fertility.
The Easter Bunny actually comes from old Germany. In Germany his is known as Osterhase. Oster is German for Easter. Legend has it a poor old woman in a German village would paint eggs and hide them in the herb garden for the children. They would often see a hare hopping away and assume he had brought them. Thus, the Easter Bunny.
In later times, children would build nests in the garden for the Osterhase to leave the eggs. Sound familiar to the Easter basket and egg hunts in the yard or at a local park.
The Germans brought this tradition to America in the 1700’s. It was so popular with the children it was adopted here as well. It has spread all over the world in many ways, as it has adapted to all cultures. The first chocolate bunny was made in Germany as well. And has evolved into candy, toys, and prizes as well. Have you found the purple egg?
That still doesn’t answer why not an Easter Chicken instead of a Bunny. An old tale suggests chickens were too busy laying colored eggs and they were slow moving, so their super-fast friend the hare handled delivery. Kind of like the elves and Santa as the deliverer.
Whatever you are doing, enjoy the day. Happy Easter.