Happy Good Friday to those who celebrate! With Easter Sunday just two days away, we thought we would dedicate this week's edition of the blog to our favorite furry creature here at BritShop: the Easter Bunny.
As you learned last week in our deep dive into the history of Easter eggs, a vast majority of Easter tradition is rooted in Christian tradition, since it's considered the most important event on the Christian calendar.
But one such tradition that is not believed to be derived from Christianity is the Easter Bunny. So where exactly did they come from? Read on to see what we found out.
The German Easter Hare
It's true: there's no direct mention of Easter bunnies in the Christian bible, yet they've become one of the most prominent symbols of Easter throughout the world. The Easter Bunny was originally known as the Easter Hare.
Similar to spring, hares are historically associated with the idea of rebirth, as they were given ritual burials alongside humans during Europe's Neolithic age. This developed into a religious ritual for hares, and during the Iron Age, Julius Caesar declared that hares were not to be eaten in Britain due to their religious significance.
The Easter Hare dates back to German Lutherans who prophesized him as an all-knowing judge of children's behavior, similar to Santa Claus, during Eastertide: the week beginning with Easter Sunday that celebrates the occasion for one week until the following Sunday in Western Christianity. As part of the initial legend, the Easter Hare carried Easter eggs, candies, and sometimes toys in his basket to deliver to worthy children during the holiday.
The tradition spread to North America as a result of German immigrants in Pennsylvania in the 18th century, who shared the custom among their neighbors. "Osterhase" or "Oschter Haws" was a colored egg-laying hare who delivered Easter eggs to children on the eve of Easter Sunday. He soon commonly became known as the Easter Bunny in the United States, and children began leaving out carrots for him during his visits in the event that he was hungry from travelling.
Pagan Easter Celebrations
But the idea of an Easter hare is also said to date back to pre-Christian periods. In 1835, Jacob Grimm of the Brothers Grimm storytellers declared that he believed the Easter Hare was historically connected to a goddess named Ostara in ancient German.
In eighth-century England, the month of April was known as Eostre Month or Eosturmonath, after the goddess Eostre. A pagan spring festival was held in her name during this time, and is believed to have been assimilated into the Christian celebration of the resurrection of Christ.
Easter is technically a non-biblical term, having been derived from Eostre. For pagans in England and Germany, the goddess Eostre was worshipped during the spring and the hare was her symbol. Therefore, the modern Easter Bunny was actually derived from pre-Christian celebrations of Easter. Feel free to cause drama at the Easter dinner table with some of these historical facts!
According to Smithsonian magazine, "As new life emerges in spring, the Easter bunny hops back once again, providing a longstanding cultural symbol to remind us of the cycles and stages of our own lives."
Easter is considered the second best-selling candy holiday in the United States, after Halloween. As we know from last week's edition of the blog, chocolate Easter eggs date back to the 19th century and took off even more into the next century.
Jellybeans also came to be frequently associated with Easter starting in the 1930s, since they are somewhat egg-shaped. As such, over 16 billion jellybeans are produced for the Easter season in the United States alone each year. This would be enough to fill an Easter egg measuring approximately 89 feet high and 60 feet wide. Sold!
In recent years, the highest-selling Easter candy that's not chocolate or a jellybean is the marshmallow Peep, a pastel-colored candy. Peeps date back to 1950s Pennsylvania, the same state where German tradition of the Easter Bunny first spread into North America. Peeps were originally yellow-colored chicks, but today they can be found in a variety of different colors and animals, including Easter bunnies.
Last chance to shop the Easter collection here at BritShop.ca.