The Origin of the Easter Bunny

The Origin of the Easter Bunny

The Easter Bunny has become a beloved symbol of Easter, often associated with Easter egg hunts and sweet treats. But where did this fluffy creature originate, and how did it become popularized?

The Origins of the Easter Bunny

The origins of the Easter Bunny can be traced back to ancient pagan traditions. The hare symbolized fertility and new life in many ancient cultures, including those of the Celts and Germanic tribes. These cultures celebrated the spring equinox, which marked the end of winter and the beginning of spring. The hare, with its ability to reproduce quickly, was seen as a symbol of the new life and growth that came with spring.

However, these traditions may stem from antiquity back as far as the first big civilizations, as rabbits were regarded as symbols of fertility and rebirth, due to their prolific reproduction. Much later on, the Easter Bunny became a folklore figure and symbol of Easter, depicted as a rabbit—sometimes dressed in clothes—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, similar to the “naughty or nice” list made by Santa Claus. As part of the legend, the creature carries colored eggs in its basket, as well as candy, and sometimes toys, to the homes of children.

The Easter Bunny first appeared in a 1682 poem by Georg Franck von Franckenau, called “De ovis paschalibus” (‘About Easter eggs’). The poem described a white hare laying eggs in a nest, which the children would find on Easter morning. The first Easter Bunny in America was reportedly seen in Pennsylvania in 1778.

The Easter Bunny and the Bible

As Christianity spread throughout Europe, many pagan traditions were adapted and incorporated into Christian celebrations. The celebration of Easter, which marks the resurrection of Jesus Christ, was no exception. In the 17th century, German immigrants to America brought with them the tradition of the “Osterhase,” a hare that would bring colored eggs to children on Easter Sunday. (This practice reinforced the belief in new life through Christian doctrine or rebirth.)

However, those who engaged in this tradition did not get the practice from the Bible – at least directly. Like Christmas trees and their lights and decorations, the colorful eggs and fluffy bunnies are symbols of Christianity. For instance, the lights on Christmas trees represent the light of God. Similarly, colored eggs symbolize new life.

The Modern Introduction of Easter Candy

In 1880, the first Easter Bunny-themed candy was produced by the German company Niederegger. The candy was a chocolate egg with a picture of a rabbit on it. Other candy companies quickly followed suit, and soon there were Easter Bunny-themed candies, toys, and other products available. The Easter Bunny became a popular figure among children, and the tradition of the Easter Bunny has continued to this day.

Over time, the idea of Osterhase evolved into the Easter Bunny, a character that became more and more popular in the United States in the 19th and 20th centuries. The Easter Bunny was often depicted as a friendly, anthropomorphic rabbit delivering candy and eggs to children on Easter morning.

The Easter Bunny, Greeting Cards, and Consumer Spending

The popularity of the Easter Bunny was helped by the growth of the greeting card industry in the early 20th century. Easter cards featuring the Easter Bunny became popular, and soon the image of the Easter Bunny was everywhere, from department store displays to children’s books. 

In the past few years alone, the holiday has recorded approximately 60 million sales of greeting cards. Combined with candy and other Easter-related purchases, the holiday generates between $22 billion and $24 billion in sales.

Today, the Easter Bunny remains a beloved symbol of Easter, a reminder of the renewal and new life that comes with the spring season. Children eagerly await the arrival of the Easter Bunny, who is often portrayed as a fun and friendly character who brings joy and happiness to the holiday.