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A Brief History of the Easter Bunny and Easter Eggs

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Easter postcard circa the early 20th century

Easter postcard circa the early 20th century

Who Is the Easter Bunny?

We’ve all heard of the Easter Bunny. He’s the happy rabbit who brings us eggs at Easter time. He’s normally depicted in a human-like way—walking upright, wearing human clothes, and carrying baskets of colored eggs, candy, and toys. He visits our homes and either leaves baskets of treats or hides eggs around the garden in preparation for a joyous egg hunt on Easter morning. In a way, he’s a bit like the Santa Claus of Easter, as he brings gifts to children on the night before a holiday.

"Ostara" (1901) by Johannes Gehrts—the Germanic goddess Oestre/Ostara flies through the heavens surrounded by Roman-inspired putti, beams of light, and animals.

"Ostara" (1901) by Johannes Gehrts—the Germanic goddess Oestre/Ostara flies through the heavens surrounded by Roman-inspired putti, beams of light, and animals.

Origins of the Easter Bunny

Most historians point to a German origin for the Easter Bunny. In the early 1600s, many German publications mentioned an Easter Bunny as being the symbol of Easter and mention a tradition in which a hare delivers Easter eggs. In the early 1800s, the first edible Easter bunnies were produced; they were not made of chocolate like the Easter Bunny sweets of today but instead were more like pastries.

The Easter Bunny reached the shores of the USA in the early 1700s. Early German settlers brought the tradition with them and also instigated the tradition of giving and receiving colored eggs. This evolved into the tradition of hiding colored eggs around the garden.

Others maintain that the concepts of Easter and the Easter Bunny can be traced back to pre-Christian, Anglo-Saxon history. Like many Christian holidays, it is believed that Easter is a Christian incarnation of a pagan celebration of the Goddess Eostre (or Eastre). The rabbit may be seen as the earthly incarnation of the Goddess. Eastre was the goddess of fertility and springtime, and her symbol was the rabbit. When the Anglo-Saxons converted to Christianity, the pagan holiday was combined with the Christian memorial of Jesus’ resurrection.

Egg-dyeing is a common practice worldwide, and several explanations for the conception of this tradition have been proposed.

Egg-dyeing is a common practice worldwide, and several explanations for the conception of this tradition have been proposed.

Origins of Egg-Dyeing and Colored Eggs

Like many longstanding traditions, the origins of coloring eggs at Easter time are somewhat vague. Many different origins for the tradition have been proposed, and no one knows for sure which is true.

Eggs are often seen as a sign of fertility, and this, combined with the colors of spring just before Easter, seems to indicate that the ritual of coloring eggs is tied to both the onset of spring and the fertility associated with it. Some early Christians dyed their eggs red to symbolize the blood of Jesus and honor his sacrifice. The colored egg tradition was combined with the myth of the Easter Bunny in the early 18th century by German immigrants.

Some claim that Easter Eggs were originally pagan symbols, but there is no real connection that can be found other than some vague theories associated with the Goddess Eostre.

In other religions, the hard-boiled egg is often dipped in saltwater to signify new life and the Passover. The link of new life being celebrated is a common theme among many religions. In Medieval Europe, for instance, eggs were often forbidden during Lent, and this led to the tradition of Pancake Day. Once Lent was over, eggs were again consumed and thus became part of Easter celebrations.

Ancient Egyptians, Persians, and Romans all used eggs during their spring festivals, and this common theme, combined with the renewal of spring, may also have played a part in the spread of the egg-coloring tradition.

Fun Facts About Easter and Eggs

  • In Europe, eggs were hung on maypoles and trees as symbols of regeneration.
  • Eggs cooked on Good Friday were supposed to promote fertility in crops.
  • Legend suggests that you’ll become rich if you find two yolks in an Easter egg.
  • Pysanka is the traditional name for egg painting.
  • Americans typically spend around $2 billion annually toward Easter.
  • The chocolate egg originated in Europe in the early 1900s.
  • 90 million chocolate bunnies are consumed every year.

What Is Egg Art?

The coloring of eggs has become an art. While many children will color eggs with their parents on Easter, the art world has taken egg decorating to a whole new level. The famous Fabergé eggs are adored by millions and have become collector’s items. Egg-decorating has been a traditional form of art for centuries, and today the early techniques are still practiced by folk artists around the world. An organization known as the International Egg Art Guild promotes egg artistry worldwide. Some of the artwork is simply incredible.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Simon (author) from NJ, USA on March 30, 2010:

KR: Happy Easter to you too! Don't give Arnie too many Chocolate Eggs!

Kelvyn Ross on March 27, 2010:

Great article. I was pretty sceptical when I saw the heading but interesting stuff.

Happy Easter to you, your family and all your fans!


Granny's House from Older and Hopefully Wiser Time on March 27, 2010:

I used to think why eggs and a bunny. Bunnies don't lay eggs. Now I know. Thank you for the hub.

Lela from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on March 27, 2010:

eggscelent article! I love eggs. I would like to get a Faberge egg for Christmas, LOL.