Easter marks a long weekend filled with fun (for those who aren’t religious) and also a special holiday which marks the end of Lent and one that represents the resurrection of Christ. It is the oldest Christian holiday and one of the most important times of the year. As Christians celebrate the Easter festival this spring in commemoration of Jesus’ resurrection, the familiar sights of the Easter bunny and Easter eggs serve as a reminder of the holidays very ancient origins outside of the Christian tradition.
No one is sure where the English word for Easter comes from. The term Easter most likely gets its name from Eostre, the Anglo Saxon goddess who symbolizes the hare and the egg. Eostre was a pagan Goddess of Spring. In England she was celebrated at the beginning of spring and in Europe, Eostre was honoured as the Bringer of Spring. Apparently, the only reference ever made to her was by a British monk, an early historian named Venerable Bede, who lived in the late seventh and early eighth century, mentions Eostre in his writings.
No Easter celebration is complete without a chocolate bunny. But how did the bunny get involved? It is thought to have become common in the nineteenth century. Because rabbits give birth to big litters of babies called kittens in early spring, they became a symbol of the rising fertility of the earth at the Vernal Equinox.
This occurs twice a year around the 20th March and 23rd Sept, it is the moment at which the centre of the visible sun is directly above the Equator. The equinox marks the change of seasons and the spring equinox brings longer days and shorter nights.
Although bunnies do not lay eggs, legend has it that the Easter bunny does, then decorates and hides them for children to find on Easter morning. They are also a symbol of new life representing joy and celebration. The Easter bunny is also a folklore figure, depicted as a rabbit bringing Easter eggs.
Originating among German Lutherans, the Easter hare or rabbit originally played the role of a judge, deciding whether children were good or bad at the start of Eastertide. The Easter Bunny would only visit well behaved children. These ancient traditions continue to survive and play a big part in Easter celebrations around the world.
Moving on to the chocolate variety of bunnies, it’s not clear who made them first, other than it was probably someone of German descent. Tins for chocolate molds dating to 1890 can be found today in Munich.
Easter is about celebration, joy and happiness with friends and family. May yours be a happy, peaceful and fun filled one with plenty of chocolate eggs and bunnies to help celebrate the occasion? Enjoy!