What’s up with the Easter Bunny?
When I was 8, I was blown away by the basket of candy that was sitting in the corner of the living room on Easter morning. All of the sweet treats that I adored were perfectly placed into a neon pink and yellow Easter basket that had my name written in cursive on a small note hanging from the handle.
As I put that first Reese’s egg into my mouth I pondered more about this mysterious Easter Bunny and how he found me 800 miles away from my home while on family spring break. It was truly baffling how he managed to not only sneak into the house and leave a basket, but also have time to scatter about a collection of eggs in the yard.
Decades later, I know a little bit more about how the Easter bunny manages to do its job so well, but one thing I never understood was where the whole Easter Bunny idea came from in the first place.
I was raised Catholic, and last I checked, Jesus didn’t say anything about a special bunny that brought candy and eggs around during his resurrection.
So, I did some research, and to my surprise, the Easter Bunny’s story is pretty unique and one that I bet most of us Easter candy fans never knew.
Allow me to break it down for you.
Where did the Easter Bunny come from?
As mentioned, there really isn’t any biblical history of a bunny or hare that carries eggs, though the hare is known historically for its fertility, and eggs of course fall into the same realm. That being said, there’s no outright connection between the Easter Bunny and the Christian celebration of Easter.
The idea of the Easter Bunny actually is derived from pagan traditions in which people celebrated the first day of spring, known as the vernal equinox. This celebration was also focused on Eostre–the pagan goddess of fertility—who was symbolized by a hare that often had eggs.
As Christianity spread through Europe in the 13th century, these evangelists combined their newfound Christian faith with some pagan traditions, one of which was this Easter practice. This was seen as a way to make the transition from paganism to Christianity easier for the new members of the faith.
It wasn’t until early German writing from the 1600s showed us that people were placing colorful eggs into “nests” as a reward for children who were good during the Easter season.
From there, German immigrants brought the tradition over to the United States around the 1700s, where it became an adopted practice that included chocolate and other gifts.
Why does the Easter Bunny have eggs and candy?
While there is no clear indication of why eggs were the specific food chosen to represent Easter, there are scholarly resources that note a few different reasons for the eggs and candy.
The first is the direct connection between egg and life. Being that both paganism and other religions like Christianity see eggs often as a form of life, they were used in the celebration of Easter as a representation of new life reflected in the resurrection of Jesus in Christianity and the new life that comes in spring for pagans.
The second is that in the Christian practice of Lent, eggs are often forbidden to be eaten throughout the 40 days. As such, Christians used it as an opportunity to paint the eggs with different designs to mark the end of the Lenten season and the start of something new. Over time, eggs became so common among diets that candy and other gifts were added into the mix.
The third was a very practical reason–during the Great Depression, eggs were scarce and as such, families didn’t want to waste them on Easter baskets. Thus, they opted for another egg-shaped option during the 1930s known as the jelly bean. Since they were already being used as a Christmas confection, people figured they would pair perfectly with Easter baskets. Hence, why we find jelly beans in our baskets as well every year.
Where did the ideas for an Easter egg hunt come from?
This one is actually very simple.
There is no known origin for Easter egg hunting until 19th President Rutherford B. Hayes took it upon his staff to create the first-ever White House Easter Egg Hunt.
Prior to this in 1870, Capitol Hill was often used by children to roll eggs down during the Easter season and was eventually banned by White House staff. In 1878, President Hayes issued an order that if any children should come to the White House to roll their Easter eggs, they along with their families could do so and enjoy an afternoon on the lawn of the capitol.
Since then, the Easter weekend event has grown into a major buzz that you can enter into a lottery for and attend!
Have yourself a very hoppy Easter!
There you have it, the origins story of the Easter Bunny condensed into less than 1,000 words.
Now that you’re armed with all this Easter knowledge, go ahead and flex a few facts to your friends and family this Easter celebration and show them that you’re in the know when it comes to Easter candy.
Or you could take it one step further and grab some of your favorite Easter treats and bring them to the family party this weekend. Whichever you choose, we hope that you have yourself a very Hoppy Easter!