Easter Bunny

From Academic Kids

The Easter Bunny is a fantasy or mythological rabbit which leaves gifts for children at Easter. It originates in Western European cultures.

Possible pre-Christian origin

Missing image
An Easter Bunny

The word "Easter" originated from Eostremonat, meaning Eostre's month. According to the medieval English historian Bede, Eostre was a pre-Christian goddess and Jakob Grimm, in Deutsche Mythologie, concluded that this same goddess was called Ostara in Germany. It is from the German legends of Ostara and her association with the 'Ostern Hare' that the modern 'Easter Bunny' is derived. Eostre's associations with the hare seem to be related to its high fecundity (ability to reproduce quickly).

Almost all adults know that there is no Easter Bunny, but many children believe strongly in the existence of one, and typically figure it out in early elementary school, as their ability to distinguish reality from fantasy improves and older children disillusion them. Many parents keep the source of the hidden Easter eggs a secret, at least to make kids believe it.

Modern history

German Protestants, wanted to retain or re-introduce the Catholic custom of eating colored eggs for Easter, but did not want to introduce their children to the Catholic rite of fasting, which was the reason for the abundant availability of eggs at Easter time (they were forbidden to Catholics during the fast, and thus eggs laid during the fast were stored until the feast).

The idea of an egg-laying rabbit came to the United States in the 1700s. German immigrants in the Pennsylvania Dutch area told their children about the "Osterhase" (also: "Oschter Haws") or Easter Bunny. Only good children received gifts of coloured eggs in the nests that they had made in their caps and bonnets before Easter. Presumably, the Oschter Haws laid them when they were not looking. A hundred years later Jakob Grimm wrote of long-standing similar myths in Germany itself (noting many related landmarks and customs), and traced German legends of Ostara back to at least the 7th century.

According to American lore, the Easter Bunny leaves baskets of treats (including Easter eggs and assorted chocolates) on Easter morning for good children. Sometimes children leave out carrots for the Easter Bunny, which is similar to the practice of leaving milk and cookies for Santa Claus. This is a common practice even in non-Christian households, as Easter has started to become a more non-sectarian festival, along the lines of Halloween or Valentine's Day.

In Australia, rabbits are a seriously invasive species and are therefore generally considered pests, so there has been a long-running campaign to replace the Easter Bunny with an Easter Bilby, a native marsupial. This campaign has had moderate success, and Easter Bilbies are a common and unremarked sight in many Australian stores around Easter.de:Osterhase nl:Paashaas nn:Påskehare sv:Påskhare


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