The Scottish Saltire

The Scottish Saltire

Monday, March 24, 2008

How Did The Easter Bunny Become Part of a Religeous Holiday?

Borrowed from Ask Yahoo.....

The Easter bunny has a long history as a pagan symbol that
predates the
Christian holiday. In fact, our sources suggest
that early Christians
purposefully co-opted the pagan hare
to popularize their own holiday.

Quite a few pagan cultures hold celebrations in the spring.
It's the time of year when plants return to life after being
dormant all winter and when animals mate and procreate.
These festivities celebrate the renewal of life and promote
the fertility of crops, animals, and even people, which
was important in these agrarian communities. The Saxons
believed in a maiden goddess of fertility named
Eastre or Eostre
(Oestre in Latin) and honored her with
a spring festival. Hares and rabbits were considered
sacred to Eastre because they are notoriously fertile

In the second century A.D., Christian missionaries tried to
convert northern European tribes. To help make
Christianity attractive, the missionaries turned pagan
festivals into Christian holidays. The pagan Eastre festival
occurred around the same time as the Christian celebration
marking Christ's resurrection so the two celebrations
blended into one, rabbit and all.

Over time, Eastre became Easter, and the symbolism
changed as well. Instead of the Easter rabbit symbolizing
fertility, the rabbit may symbolize an innocent, vulnerable
creature that can be sacrificed, similar to the lamb. To
Christians, these innocents are tokens of Christ and the
sacrifice he made.

The Easter bunny we know today was influenced by German
traditions dating back to the 1500s. German children
believed that the Oschter Haws (a magical rabbit) would leave
them a nest of colored eggs at Eastertime if they were good.
Pennsylvania Dutch settlers brought this tradition to America
in the 1700s.

On a related note, eggs have long been a symbol of rebirth and
associated with spring celebrations. In the 600s, Pope
Gregory the
Great forbade the eating of eggs during Lent (the
40 days proceeding
Easter), and this helped make eggs a
special treat at Easter. Many
European cultures also have old
customs of decorating eggs and giving
them as gifts.


One of my funniest Easter memories is from about 1989. Dave and
Nena had joined us in coloring eggs with the kids the evening
before Easter. After the kids went to bed the four of us spent an
enjoyable few hours polishing off several bottles of wine. About
11pm we realized that we had forgotten to hide the eggs! You can
imagine the scene. It was dark outside and we were, well, not
exactly sober. The kids were about 8 and 9 years old so they were
pretty good at finding Easter eggs. We couldn't just put them
anywhere. We had to actually *hide* them. It got to be pretty
funny . Four drunks stumbling around in the dark, trying to be
quiet (it was late and we did have neighbors) and trying to find
three dozen different little hiding places in the front and back
yard. I think we had more fun laughing and hiding the eggs than
the kids did hunting for them the next morning .

Under normal circumstances, if they couldn't find all of the eggs,
Wade and I could give the kids some hints to help them out. That
particular Easter morning, though, we were as clueless as they
were! We looked at each other and giggled when we saw how
obviously some of the eggs had been *hidden* and then helplessly
joined in the hunt when the final count totaled only about 33 eggs.
I think in the end we still came up one egg short.....

The moral of this story? Don't open the wine until after you have finished your Bunny duties! Happy Easter, everyone!


Nikki said...

HAAAAAhahaha! Why can I just picture that???

You know, when you're a kid, you have a pretty strong suspicion that after you go to bed the grown-ups sneak off and have a whole bunch of fun.

When you grow up, you *know* it. ;oP

Happy Easter, Mom!

Nikki said...

ps -- the "This Day in Scottish History" application is pretty cool. Huh, you'd think you were gonna be a history student or something...!

Connie said...

...or something!

Amy said...

Hehe, awesome :) Shauna told me about this the other night; I hadn't realized it was from your blog. I gotta keep up more... you're beating Nik lately ;)

I helped John hide eggs for his kids. It was my first time on the other side of the tradition. I've had a lot of 'first time on the other side' experiences around John's kids. Usually the funnest thing I do after they go to bed is... enjoy the quiet :)

Michael said...

No wonder we found one a year later! It was so well hidden, nobody saw it. :-)