Today the figure of the Easter Bunny as a symbol of the holiday is taken pretty much for granted. Yet why is this animal associated with a Christian holiday?
Indeed, when one thinks about it, it does appear strange that children wait for a mythical rabbit to deliver them eggs or sweets at what is supposed to be one of the most sacred days in Christian tradition.
Rabbits have nothing to do with Biblical accounts of Easter. Instead, the link was made much more recently, sometime in late medieval Germany. Namely, Easter was celebrated around the same time as certain pagan fertility festivals (these were usually tied to the spring equinox). In fact, the name Easter may have been derived from the Germanic goddess Eostre/Ostara.
One of the symbols used in such festivals was the rabbit, which is unsurprising when we keep in mind how quickly they breed. It is also interesting that early Christians believed that rabbits could reproduce without loss of virginity, which led to them being associated with the Virgin Mary.
While the Germans had long since converted to Christianity, their previous customs didn’t simply disappear, but were incorporated into their new religion. Indeed, it’s not hard to imagine how people linked the resurrection of Christ and the renewal of life after the cold winter months.
Rabbits and eggs were associated only several centuries later, and the first edible Easter Bunny was made around 1800.