March 22, 2005 > Eggs-Traordinary Bunnies!
by Arathi Satish
Spring is in the air. Flowers are blooming, new dresses with bright prints are appearing in advertisements and egg hunts have been organized. In short, Easter celebrations will soon begin. This holy day, like many others has been secularized, filled with symbols that are not modern fabrications, rather embellishments of ancient lore. Easter is a celebration of the life and resurrection of Jesus Christ, so where do eggs and bunnies come into the picture?
Eggs and bunnies, two of the most prevalent Easter symbols have long been used to represent birth, fertility and the advent of spring. Roman, Russian, Egyptian and German festivals used colored and decorated eggs and beginning in the fourth century, eggs were cooked in their shells to preserve them until after Lent.
The Easter Bunny has its origin in pre-Christian fertility legends as a symbol of the goddess Eastre. Hare and rabbit were the most fertile animals known and symbolized new life during spring season. Germans first mentioned the bunny as a symbol of Easter in 1500. According to a German story published in 1682, a bunny laid eggs and hid them in the garden. In an Anglo-Saxon myth, Ostara turned her pet bird into a rabbit that laid beautiful colored eggs that she gave to children (can you see the beginnings of Easter egg hunts?).
According to historical texts, it is the hare not the rabbit that is the true symbol of Easter. Even though they belong to the same family, the hare was believed to be born with open eyes that never close, whereas rabbits are born blind. Ancient Egyptians related hares to the moon; hares were thought to watch a full moon throughout the night. However, it is the Easter bunny, not hare that has survived the test of time.
In the 1700s Pennsylvania Dutch introduced the Easter Bunny to American folklore. Children were told that the Easter Bunny would visit them and lay a nest of eggs if they were good. This led to Easter baskets and Easter eggs. In the1800s, edible bunnies made of pastry and sugar could be found in Germany and Germans brought these Easter traditions to America. Easter baskets filled with gifts like eggs and chocolates spread rapidly in America and by the 19th century, the Easter Hare had become the Easter Bunny.
Children wanting to visit the Easter Bunny can see him at the NewPark Mall in Newark through March 26.