The Easter Bunny Origin Story
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Chocolate. Ever since it melted on my tastebuds for the first time, we were friends for life. If you are like most humans and bleed red, this has probably been your experience too. I meet the odd person who doesn’t like it, but that is a rare exception. Brown, white, dark – all forms of chocolate are relatively irresistible and good to be partaken at whatever stupid time of day it may be.
I enjoy the vast variety of what you can get from the mere category of chocolate. When we’re talking chocolate bars alone, you might choose Mars with its delicious stringy caramel centre, Twix with it’s reassuring crunch of biscuity texture, dairy milk for when you want to just keep it simple, and Flake that, well…flakes to bits in your beard and on your lap. This is of course just one of the many form factors available to the consumer. Chocolate can be bought in whatever shape, colour, creed and description one may desire. Entire isles in shopping centres are devoted to this craft.
So how did chocolate eggs break into the scene? And why on Easter? Christian traditions being hijacked by modern pagan holidays is nothing new – just take a look at Christmas with all it’s literal bells, whistles and candy canes.
Easter nowadays is the time of the year when diet plans yet again really really go out the window. Tied in with a 4 day weekend in most westernised countries, because we don’t know how to say “no”, you will even still have plenty of chocolate eggs leftover to last the subsequent days thereafter. If you have chocolate eggs, one must ask where did said idea of eggs come from? “The Easter bunny!” – I hear the screams of kids in the distance. And so that would beg the question, “what’s with the whole easter bunny thing, and where did he come from?”. Finding out about all this proved to be a deeper dive down a rabbit hole (I’m funny) than I thought. I don’t have all the answers, but I am able to share with you the short and fast on the matter.
1. Easter Bunny Origin and Mythology
First about the creature itself. Whether you call it a hare, rabbit or (bugs) bunny – what matters about our cotton tailed friends is that this creature was deeply mythologised by pagans because it was the symbol for the goddess of fertility and the season of spring. This was quite literally because of their high reproduction rates (i.e the saying “to breed like rabbits).
Somewhere between the 16th and 17th century, German immigrants in Pennsylvania, USA, introduced the world to the tradition of a magical egg laying hare named “Osterhase” or “Oschter Haws”. The idea behind the easter bunny has a similar theme much like Santa Clause at Christmas time – Osterhase at an unknown hour of the night on the eve of Easter would elusively lay coloured eggs as a gift to the children for being good. Osterhase needed a place to leave these coveted eggs and so kids were quickly incentivised about making the best, most creative nests so that they had a chance of reaping the elaborate work of their hands.
News quickly spread around America of this new and fun way of celebrating the Easter holiday. Over a short timespan, the country had adopted it in its fullness. It became a tradition in the White House to open up for an egg hunt and egg rolling competition. As with how it goes with anything America does, like copying what the cool kid does at school, the world took notice and was taking part too. The Easter bunny’s range of gifts soon diversified from just eggs, to other treats like chocolate and toys, like a lesser Christmas.
Today, the easter bunny is global and is here to stay. I think the Easter bunny self identifies as non-binary because nobody knows if it’s a he, she, zhe, zhim, zhoom or it. Whatever the case, “they” are marketed all over television, radio, internet, in the shop windows and posters stuck all over bus stops. You would have to be living under a rock to never notice. The easter bunny as a whole is a genius money making combo, actually. What wrong can a cute bunny that brings you chocolate and makes the kids behave a little better, do? Especially if one of those spills out M&M’s from the centre after you crack it on a table edge.
3. Christian Easter
Speaking from my own experience as a Christian, celebrating these major calendar events each year comes with the intentional effort to remember and celebrate it’s original meaning first and second, the participation in some part of it’s man made tradition for the mere fun of it. Sort of like choosing to take part in the consumption of dessert after the main meal is eaten and reflected on.
For each household, taking part in major things like Easter and Christmas requires thoughtful and prayerful attention in discernment into what is really important to you and the raising of your family. It’s not unheard of to learn of people going the puritan route, who avoid the putting up of any Christmas tree or partake of chocolate eggs on these particular days because they feel the Lord is most honoured when one is “fasted” from all worldly customs. Perhaps enlarging the emphasis on the parts of scripture where living as a separate people and set apart is turned up to 11.
For those that don’t feel that these secondary celebrations are not in fact a stumbling block, melding the true meaning of Christ’s perfect sacrifice on the cross and a so-called Easter bunny, into some way that is not over the top nor destructive is more complicated than once thought. Especially for the corporate gathering of the church, this can sometimes split congregations into division.
For example, most churches will have a portion of their Sunday service devoted to a children’s talk. An opportunity to teach the younglings about part of the scripture that is translatable to their younger minds. After all, it’s tricky business teaching kids the sombre yet rejoiceful celebration that is Easter, the victory over sin and death itself, when all they are bombarded with is the promise of a masters degree in chocolate and mischief for a whole day.
My church of upbringing at the Church of Christ, Naracoorte in Australia struck a balance with Easter. We gathered in the building on Good Friday and Sunday as normal, and took part in a shortened service to remember what God made possible for us. The gap between man and God was bridged by the reconciliation plan of the cross. Communion of wine and bread was partaken, and a large wooden cross was brought into the hall where all could see in the behind the altar. I remember that on at least one occasion, if members felt willing, we were asked during the Good Friday service to first pray and then line up at the front to hammer a literal nail to the cross, symbolising our sin that was nailed to Jesus at the hour of his death. It was incredibly powerful and heart breaking at the same time. Bible readings from Matthew’s gospel were then read out about what soon occurred at calvary.
“About the ninth hour, Jesus cried out with a loud voice saying, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt 27:46)
A sombre hymn of “The Old Rugged Cross” (Later to be one of my very favourite songs) were sung with what I describe as a lackluster enthusiasm. You could argue it was a depressing way to do it, but it certainly made you come to terms with what it must’ve really been like for the disciples and Mary at that time. So shook to their core, witnessing the treatment and beating he received at the hands of man, they constantly were ignorant to Jesus telling them he would rise again on the third. I think the service done like this unintentionally taught me I could easily have been one of those doubters short in faith that Jesus would not come through on his promise. We have it quite easy living today, as we know with foresight that despite our sin that nailed Jesus in place, Sunday service, resembling the discovery of the empty tomb with all it’s rejoicing, is right around the corner.
4. The Intersection Of Jesus And The Easter Bunny – Closing Thoughts
And finally we reach this section. Did we get easter eggs in and after church? You bet we did. Did we as kids ever listen that closely about what was being taught us about Easter during the kids church lesson, especially while chocolate eggs were floated in front of us while they instructed us? It is uncertain. Should you take part in the same way at home and in your own church? I can’t truly tell you either way. I know for me, it did not lead me astray into some easter bunny cult nor did I ever fare that badly by becoming obese from too many chocolate eggs. I am grateful that there was a balance struck in our family. I’m in the process of teaching my own kids the value of the true story of Easter while still letting them have their fun, doing their egg hunt and being hyped on sugar all the day long.
There are some calendar events we choose to leave out of our kids field of vision, for example Halloween, because for us it does not hold any return of value in their development cycle. How and to what extent you choose to allow in what is essentially extra wordly tradition layered on top of regular Christian events, must be done like anything with prayer, discernment and wisdom. The source of said attributes can only come from one place, which is God himself. Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Soli Deo gloria