Origins of this tradition can be traced back to the year 300.
Advertisement

On Easter Sunday, children across the globe wake up to find their baskets filled with chocolate eggs, small toys, and other Easter basket fillers. And while I was never one to question a basket full of goodies as a child, I know now that there is no magical bunny that hops around filling children’s Easter baskets with candy and toys. But while the Easter bunny technically isn’t real, the tradition is very much alive, thanks to sneaky parents who have been filling the baskets for more than 300 years.

Some people (myself included) have wondered how an egg-laying rabbit came to be associated with the holiday—and why Easter’s figure is a rabbit and not a chicken, which actually does lay eggs (even if they typically don’t come out dyed and decorated). And while the exact origins of the Easter bunny aren’t easy to pinpoint, there is actually a solid historical reason that the mythical creature is a rabbit. 

little boy with rabbit and basket
Credit: Maria Pavlova/Getty Images

Rabbits and hares have long been associated with springtime celebrations. As far back as the fourth century, early pagans celebrated the renewal of life that came with springtime and the vernal equinox. The symbol of their celebration was the goddess of dawn and fertility, Eostre, who was typically represented in art by the symbol of a rabbit or an egg. As Christianity spread across Europe in the Middle Ages (around the year 500), the timing of this springtime observance coincided with Easter, so the two celebrations merged into one.

Even though rabbits and eggs have long been associated with Easter, the egg-laying, chocolate-delivering Easter bunny as we know it doesn’t appear in history until much later. In the 1600s, a legend of a rabbit called “Osterhase” or “Oschter Haws” (which translates to ‘Easter hare’) was said to lay colorful eggs for children to find on Easter Sunday. When the first Europeans arrived in America a hundred years later, the tradition came with them. Children would make their own nests or baskets in the week leading up to Easter, and then the Osterhase would leave eggs for them. And so the tradition of making and filling Easter baskets was born.  

So whether you're the recipient of an Easter basket or playing the role of the Easter bunny this year, you can thank the 'Osterhase' and the long history of the Easter bunny for giving us the excuse to eat a few extra jelly beans this season.

Comments (4)

Better Homes & Gardens Member
March 20, 2021
I love history. The commentary provided what may well be an earlier and possibly more accurate account. I haven't looked into it. It is intetesting that the Greeks dye their eggs a gorgeous oxblood color. Nevertheless, traditions that start as one thing, evolve with the cultures that blend with the original. Sometimes drastically, sometimes ever so slightly. Christians, like me and my family, do not confuse the possible pagan influences of fertility with the rising of Jesus from the tomb. Most Christians are unaware of the pagan ceremonies, so their impact will be negligible. No Christian I have ever known or heard of colors eggs in celebration of the pagan fertility goddess, or thinks of her son when they see the cross. Regardless of the origin, or shape of the torture device,, Christians everywhere are devastated at the sight of the cross as they think only of the suffering of Jesus. Nothing else. Eggs and bunnies as well as Spring itself bring to our mind rebirth, forgiveness, joy and love. Thank you for the history lesson, and even though I have no reason to doubt you, anonymous commentor, I do not feel less worthy carrying on our modern tradition. God knows our heart and beliefs and He alone will judge.. Happy Easter!
Better Homes & Gardens Member
March 20, 2021
I love history. The commentary provided what may well be an earlier and possibly more accurate account. I haven't looked into it. It is intetesting that the Greeks dye their eggs a gorgeous oxblood color. Nevertheless, traditions that start as one thing, evolve with the cultures that blend with the original. Sometimes drastically, sometimes ever so slightly. Christians, like me and my family, do not confuse the possible pagan influences of fertility with the rising of Jesus from the tomb. Most Christians are unaware of the pagan ceremonies, so their impact will be negligible. No Christian I have ever known or heard of colors eggs in celebration of the pagan fertility goddess, or thinks of her son when they see the cross. Regardless of the origin, or shape of the torture device,, Christians everywhere are devastated at the sight of the cross as they think only of the suffering of Jesus. Nothing else. Eggs and bunnies as well as Spring itself bring to our mind rebirth, forgiveness, joy and love. Thank you for the history lesson, and even though I have no reason to doubt you, anonymous commentor, I do not feel less worthy carrying on our modern tradition. God knows our heart and beliefs and He alone will judge.. Happy Easter!
Better Homes & Gardens Member
March 20, 2021
Well, the pagan holiday comment may be true. I don't see why it wouldn't be. As a lover of his
Better Homes & Gardens Member
March 20, 2021
Easter was a pagan holiday in its origin in Babylon. It was never a Christian celebration. Jesus clearly told his followers at Luke 22:19 to have a simple commemoration of his DEATH on the exact anniversary which falls on Saturday, March 27th this year. The Catholic church was so anxious to get the pagans to join them, they blended their pagan "the goddess of dawn and fertility, Eostre, " celebration with the death of Jesus. They didn't even bother to take the pagan fertility goddess' name, Easter, off of it. This is also where the word estrogen came from. Jesus said to worship in "spirit and truth" Easter was a lie from the beginning. Shame on parents for lying to their children. They should be thanking their parents for chocolate rather than a pagan fertility symbol. Also the cross is a pagan symbol for the fertility goddess' son Tammuz. Jesus died on a stauros which is a single torture stake!! Tammuz was killed at the age of 40 by a wild boar. That is why pagan Easter has 40days of Lent and ham is usually served. Tammuz was supposed to be the sun god, so on Easter, the pagans get dressed up and wake early to celebrate the sun rising, thus false Christians adopted this custom on Easter in their sunrise services. The origin of the colored eggs is the worst. Children were sacrificed to the fertility goddess, Easter and eggs were colored in the sacrificed children's blood. Real Christians will do as Jesus instructed and have a memorial of his death and reflect what his sacrifice did for us personally. Jesus died as a perfect man as a ransom for the sins of Adam.