I remember getting up to hunt Easter eggs with my sister before the sun came up. Weâ€™d both get a huge basket filled with candy then scour the yard (and sometimes inside the house) for hidden eggs we decorated the day before. I donâ€™t remember ever being concerned that a large human size rabbit with clothes on came into our house at night, took our decorated eggs and then hid them from us. I guess I just accepted it like Santa Clause (a large jolly old man breaking into our house at night to leave us many gifts, still sounds a bit creepy). If I did have a concern, all was forgiven due to candy!
What the heck does Easter have to do with bunnies and eggs anyway? Well, besides the fact that there are few â€œfunâ€ things you can do for kids using Jesus crucified on a cross, Easter is also a time to celebrate Spring and renewal. I did some digging and found a few interesting facts for you to ponder on this joyful holiday:
- The hare (similar to a rabbit) was a popular motif in medieval church art. In ancient times it was widely that the hare was hermaphrodite. The idea that a hare could reproduce without loss of virginity led to an association with the Virgin Mary, with hares sometimes occurring in illuminated manuscripts and Northern European paintings of the Virgin and Christ Child.
- Eggs, like rabbits and hares, are fertility symbols of antiquity. Since birds lay eggs and rabbits and hares give birth to large litters in the early spring, these became symbols of the rising fertility of the earth at the Vernal Equinox.
- Rabbits and hares are both prolific breeders. Female hares can conceive a second litter of offspring while still pregnant with the first. This phenomenon is known as superfetation so it's not surprising that rabbits and hares should become fertility symbols, or that their springtime mating antics should enter into Easter folklore.
- The exact origin of decorating eggs isn't known, although evidently the blooming of many flowers in spring coincides with the use of the fertility symbol of eggsâ€”and eggs boiled with some flowers change their color, bringing the spring into the homes.
- Many Christians of the Eastern Orthodox Church to this day typically dye their Easter eggs red, the color of blood, in recognition of the blood of the sacrificed Christ (and, of the renewal of life in springtime). Some also use the color green, in honor of the new foliage emerging after the long dead time of winter.
- German Protestants wanted to retain the Catholic custom of eating colored eggs for Easter, but did not want to introduce their children to the Catholic rite of fasting. Eggs were forbidden to Catholics during the fast of Lent, which was the reason for the abundance of eggs at Easter time.
- The idea of an egg-laying bunny came to the U.S. in the 18th century. German immigrants in the Pennsylvania Dutch area told their children about the â€œOsterhaseâ€ (sometimes spelled â€œOschter Hawsâ€).
- â€œHaseâ€ means â€œhareâ€, not rabbit, and in Northwest European folklore the â€œEaster Bunnyâ€ indeed is a hare, not a rabbit. According to the legend, only good children received gifts of colored eggs in the nests that they made in their caps and bonnets before Easter.
- In 1835, Jakob Grimm wrote of long-standing similar myths in Germany itself. Grimm suggested that these derived from legends of the reconstructed continental Germanic goddess Ostara.
There you have itâ€¦helps make a bit more sense now, right? What special Easter traditions does your family have?