Discovering the stories behind the myths of Easter
April 6, 2012
If you have ever ventured into a mall around Easter you will have noticed a large line of young kids waiting to see something. No, it isn’t Santa Claus, although this is where he would be. No these kids are all there to see the Easter Bunny. As a young child I don’t think any of us ever questioned why there was an Easter Bunny.
And why would we question something that “brings” us toys, eggs and chocolate? As we get older, however, some of us begin to wonder what exactly does a bunny have to do with the religious holiday of Easter. That is what I’m here to answer. First, let’s discuss this problem of a bunny having eggs. Rabbits do not actually lay eggs. So where do these eggs come from? Well, this goes back to early Christianity where eggs were brought into houses to signify the beginning of spring.
OK, so that explains the appearance of the eggs, but why do we color them? Originally, people of the Eastern Orthodox religion died their eggs red in honor of the blood of Jesus Christ. Some began painting the eggs green to symbolize the coming of spring as well.
Additionally, eggs were forbidden to Catholics during the time of Lent. This is the reason for the sheer amount of eggs around Easter. If you can’t eat them, they just sit there.
Now, how did the bunny come into the picture? Well, in precolonial America the idea came from the German immigrants. The Germans told their children the story about the “Osterhas.” As you may have guessed, “Oster” translates roughly into Easter. However, “Has” or “Hase” translates into hare. So, yes, the Easter Bunny is, in fact, the Easter Hare. Seriously, look at almost any picture or drawing of an Easter “Bunny” and you’ll see a hare instead.
In fact, in this legend the Easter Bunny acts in almost the same way that Santa Claus does. According to the legend, the Easter Bunny would give good children lovely colored eggs on the night before Easter. Obviously, this has evolved into a marketable holiday in which children get toys and chocolate in addition to their colored eggs. I couldn’t find what the bad children get from the Easter Bunny. Bunny droppings perhaps? Who knows.
For those of you who are curious about where this legend comes from you may be interested to know that it came from none other than Jakob Grimm. Yup, one of the Grimm Brothers was the won who penned the legend of the Easter Bunny. Kind of makes you wonder if there is some dark side to the Easter Bunny doesn’t it?
So now you are informed. The next time someone asks you why there is an Easter Bunny you will know what to tell them.
Or you could make up some kind of entertaining lie about an ancient bunny that laid eggs the color of the foods it ate. Just a thought.
Benjamin Lamers is an alumnus of UW-River Falls. He was editor of the <em>Student Voice</em> during fall semester 2013.