A 1907 POSTCARD featuring the Easter Bunny.

A 1907 POSTCARD featuring the Easter Bunny.

The Easter Bunny, also called the Easter Rabbit or Easter Hare, is a folklore figure and symbol of Easter, depicted as a rabbit bringing Easter eggs.

Originating among German Lutherans, the “Easter Hare” originally played the role of a judge, evaluating whether children were good or disobedient in behavior at the start of the season of Eastertide. The Bunny is sometimes depicted wearing clothes. In legend, the creature carries colored eggs in his basket, also candy and sometimes toys to the homes of children, and as such, shows similarities to Santa Claus.

The custom was first mentioned in Georg Franck von Franckenau’s “De ovis paschalibus” (About Easter eggs) in 1682.

The hare was a popular motif in medieval church art. In ancient times, it was widely believed by Plutarch ( AD 46 – AD 120) a Greek historian, and others, that the hare was a hermaphrodite. The idea that hare could reproduce without loss of virginity led to an association with the Virgin Mary, with hares sometimes occurring in illuminated manuscripts and Northern European paintings of the Virgin and Christ Child. Eggs, like rabbits and hares, are fertility symbols of antiquity.

In addition, Orthodox churches have a custom of abstaining from eggs during the fast of Lent. The only way to keep them from being wasted was to boil or roast them and eat them to break the fast. They would probably have been decorated as part of the celebrations. Later, German Protestants retained the custom of eating colored eggs for Easter, though they did not continue the tradition of fasting. Eggs boiled with some flowers change their color, bringing the spring into the homes, and some over time, added the custom of decorating the eggs. The Ukrainian art of decorating eggs for Easter, known as pysanky, dates to ancient, pre-Christian times.

The idea of an egg-giving hare came to the U.S. in the 18th century. Protestant German immigrants in the Pennsylvania Dutch area told their children about the “Osterhase.” Hase means hare, not rabbit and in Northwest European folklore, the Easter Bunny indeed is a hare. According to the legend, only good children received gifts of colored eggs in the nests that they made in their caps and bonnets before Easter.

A Peaceful and Happy Easter to all our readers.

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