Legend has it that the rabbit (actually, the hare) was a symbol associated with the ancient festival of the Pagans, celebrated in honor of the Goddess Eastre or Eostre. She was the Goddess of fertility and the festival marked the birth of new life. It also coincided with the arrival of spring. Understandably, rabbits and hares, became associated with this Pagan festival owing to their fertility. Later, Christian missionaries, in the process of popularizing the Christian faith, adopted this Pagan symbol of fertility and incorporated it into the occasion representing the resurrection of Jesus which occurred around the same time of the year. The two festivals merged – Eastre became Easter, and the fertile rabbit became the Easter Bunny. The rabbit became a symbol of innocence and sacrifice, very similar to the lamb.
There are a few other stories that tie the loose ends of this unforgettable Easter character together.
In Germany, in the 1500s children were raised to believe that a bunny would bring them colorful eggs as gifts, if they behaved well. This tradition found its way to America in the 1700s. According to another legend, a group of kids once found colorfully decorated eggs hidden in the garden outside their home. Snuggled close to the eggs, as if in a nest, was a bunny, appearing as if it had laid the eggs. This image somehow found its way into folklore and thus paved the way for the now popular Easer Bunny. All these legends combined with the fact that giving decorated eggs as gifts was already a popular custom in Europe, gave rise to the Easter Bunny traditions we know today.
So there you have it. A bunny. A basket of colorful eggs. And a spring festival of fertility. All coming together to symbolize one of the most important occasions for followers of Christianity – the resurrection of Jesus. Easter 2009 is almost here.
How will you be celebrating? Will you be joining your family or do you live too far away? Are you taking your kids on an egg hunt? Or will you be celebrating the arrival of spring in your own unique way? Tell us!
No matter how you mark this occasion and regardless of whether you celebrate spring or life or Easter, there is sure to be something in our Free Easter Ecards section that will make you smile.
Wishing you a Happy Easter and a very joyful spring! Here’s to new beginnings…