Soucheray: How Easter traditions have hopped aroundThis upcoming Sunday is Easter Sunday in the Christian tradition and many people wonder how a bunny rabbit came to represent this central holiday of their faith. They also wonder why we dye eggs and presume that the bunny would deliver these eggs while their children slept.
By: Kate Soucheray, Woodbury Bulletin
This upcoming Sunday is Easter Sunday in the Christian tradition and many people wonder how a bunny rabbit came to represent this central holiday of their faith. They also wonder why we dye eggs and presume that the bunny would deliver these eggs while their children slept.
To answer these questions, we must look to life many years ago. The Easter bunny has been with us for centuries and represents the fertility found in the springtime. In fact, rabbits often have a litter of several baby bunnies at one time, often born in the springtime. So fertile are rabbits, however, that they can get pregnant with a second litter of bunnies before they have delivered the brood they were initially carrying, a phenomenon called superfetation. Imagine.
The idea of fertility in the springtime continues when we remember that all of life comes from the contribution of an egg of some sort. It is for this reason that the egg has been connected to Easter, as it represents new life and fruitfulness in concrete and easily observed ways.
The concept of eggs being colored seems to have been influenced by the variety of spring flowers and the joy their brilliant hues bring to us after the long winter. At Easter, the eggs were hidden outside for the children to find among the fresh, colorful flowers, abundantly blooming in gardens near the newly-sprouting, spring grass. So the more colorful and vibrant the colors of the eggs were, the more easily they could be nestled into the flowers for the children to find.
But let’s get back to that bunny. It seems at its origin, the Easter bunny was called the Easter hare, rather than the Easter rabbit, and was brought to this country by the Germans. It was originally called the “Oschter Haws,” as “hase” meant “hare” in German.
And as the children went out to collect the eggs representing the new life of the springtime, delivered by the Easter Hare, they had to have something to place their collected treasures in. The idea of the Easter bonnet comes from the custom that the Easter Hare, when it hid the eggs outside for the children to find, would sometimes put them in a nest the children made in a bonnet they left out for this purpose. So at its origin, the Easter Hare was a bunny, carrying colored eggs and placing them in nests, often displayed in a new bonnet left out in the grass by the children, for them to find on Easter morning.
So you can see how the Easter bunny has come from many traditions, all associated with the arrival of the season of spring for the peoples of the ancient Roman Empire or from those who brought them to America when they emigrated.
What are your Easter traditions and how have you made the wide variety of existing customs your own? Perhaps you purchase baskets for each child and hide them around the house for them to find on Easter morning. Or perhaps each child receives a fresh, new bonnet or hat to wear on Easter morning as you head off to grandma’s house for brunch. Maybe your family spends the few days before Easter Sunday coloring eggs and decorating them to imitate the spring flowers blooming during this time.
Whatever your traditions, you can be sure they are steeped in traditions that have evolved over the centuries to become what they are today. No doubt, these traditions will continue to change for our children and grandchildren. But one thing of which we can be sure: everyone seems to eat the chocolate Easter bunny’s ears first.
Soucheray is a Woodbury resident and licensed family therapist