Easter is a popular holiday, and most folks look forward to it. For Christians, it is a time for remembrance of the sacrifice made by Jesus Christ over two thousand years ago, while others simply use the time for reflection and with family. So how in the world did the Easter bunny emerge?
There is no Easter bunny, though it’s a key figure during Easter celebrations across the US and globally in some areas. The Easter bunny lore came about as an extension of different Spring traditions and is perpetuated via successful commercialization of bunny symbol merchandise available at Easter.
With this in mind, read on to find out more and then decide for yourself if there is no Easter Bunny for you and the kids in your life!
Does Easter Have A Bunny Symbol?
Though crooner Fred Astaire popularized the Easter Bunny song in a kids animated video (remastered for modern technology and available on Amazon), the Easter Bunny isn’t synonymous with Easter. Contrary to popular belief, Easter does not have a bunny-rabbit as its symbol.
Easter always occurs in spring time, coordinating with the spring equinox calendar. This is perhaps one reason why rabbits and bunnies, as well as eggs, have been associated with Easter celebrations. However, to be clear, the origin of the tradition of a rabbit laying eggs on Easter is ambiguous.
Let’s look at some historical connections to better understand how this association may have come about.
Ancient Egyptian Connection to the Easter Bunny–
The first traces of an association between Easter and rabbits, or hares rather, date back to early Egyptian mythology.
An Ancient Egyptian hare hieroglyph, ‘E34’, representing the desert hare, was included in Sir Alan Gardiner’s extensive compilation, Egyptian Grammar, published in 1952.Archives.Org
Atum was a sun god often represented by the rabbit or hare was worshiped as the ‘god of creation’ which many connect to spring’s birth/re-birth.
In addition to this, Ancient Egyptians also used to worship a moon goddess called Eostre, whose sacred animal was the hare, and symbolized birth. The worship of Eostre spread throughout Europe, especially Germanic areas, during the Middle Ages, too, continuing the association of rabbits/hares/bunnies with spring time festivities.
Some even say the word Easter is derived from Eostre. However, there is debate about this etymology. (Source: Unam Sanctum Catholicam).
Early Christian Connection to the Easter Bunny-
Then there is an old story that links the development of the ‘Easter Bunny’ to a tale about a rabbit who lay next to Mary Magdelene, one of the followers of Jesus listed in the New Testament, when she discovered Jesus’ tomb was empty.
As a Catholic raised Christian myself, I’ve never heard this tale but there is a Catholic story (Byzantine) that associates St. Mary Magdelene with an egg, red actually, that I have heard.
The story goes like this: As the first witness to Jesus’ resurrection, Mary became vocal in sharing the Gospel and complaining about Jesus’ unfair treatment. She often brought an egg to explain the purity of Christ.
One time she was able to share this with Emperor Tiberius of Rome. When he expressed doubt of the resurrection, she handed him the egg but it turned red! From then on, a red egg became the symbol of the blood and resurrection of Jesus…and linked to Mary Magdelene.
And so in many Byzantine Churches, pictures of St. Mary Magdelene depict her with a red egg.
And then there is the famous The Madonna of the Rabbit painting by Titian in the 1500s, now housed in Musée du Louvre in Paris, France. In it, a white rabbit or hare is shown next to the Virgin Mary because it was believed at the time that hares could produce offspring without intercourse.
This could certainly be loosely responsible for the linking of a rabbit (hare) with Christianity with the most Christian holiday, perhaps second only to Christmas, is Easter Sunday.
Chinese Connection to the Easter Bunny-
The first association between bunnies and eggs found in China have an even earlier tradition. This story tells about how all women become the mother of twins during a full moon, a belief still alive in some parts of China even today.
The rabbit is often found together with the moon and stars, which seem to have been an essential part of nature, aligned with their importance with Chinese farming and hunting. Rabbits in China are thought to be lucky, too.
Today Chinese culture doesn’t generally celebrate Easter, but in Hong Kong it is quite popular as there is a strong Christian influence. In fact, Easter Monday is a national holiday in Hong Kong.
European Connection to the Easter Bunny-
In Central Europe, though, people seem to have associated rabbits more with eggs than with the Easter holiday itself. You find references in medieval texts that tell you how to sacrifice or put an end to rabbits to get good harvests.
Rabbits were also thought to be very fertile in general, and many references can be found in which people talk about them breeding like “rabbits”, so this may have been where the myth of rabbits laying eggs came from.
However, nowadays, Easter holidays are associated with bunnies and eggs through a strong secular commercialization of the holiday.
The ‘bunny rabbit’ is a very recent addition to this old holiday tradition, even though it’s hard to tell exactly when it appeared. Some people believe bunnies were added to make the holiday more relatable for children and cuter, but these animals have been around since long before that, so it seems commercialism has certainly played a large role in the push today.
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Children and the Easter Bunny Evolution
It certainly looks as if making Easter more child-appealing is a big reason for the evolution of the ‘Easter Bunny’, along with Easter baskets, colorful eggs, and candy. Advertisers and marketing specialists have been able to put these enticing features at the forefront of the Easter celebration, rather than the Christian emphasis of Jesus.
Ever since bunnies and eggs (and the other loot) were added, the holiday has become much more colorful and entertaining, especially for kids who participate in activities involving colorful Easter eggs.
The most common and popular Easter game is the Easter egg hunt. The myth is that a big, fluffy animal (‘the Easter Bunny’) hides colored eggs throughout a garden or park for children to find. The Easter Bunny might bring kids eggs filled with candy or toys as well.
This activity has become one of the holiday’s most important traditions, shared between many families who celebrate Easter together.
Of course as Catholics we’ve celebrated Easter religiously, and though we recognize there isn’t a Christian reason for the Easter Bunny/egg hunts, we’ve indulged our kids nonetheless and included these additions to our Easter celebration, along with most other Catholic/Christian families.
Should You Tell Your Kids There Is No Easter Bunny?
You should tell your kids there is no Easter Bunny. Though traditions and celebrations are important parts of family life and childhood, it’s best to be honest with kids rather than perpetuate a myth, like the Easter Bunny (or Santa Claus) are real. You can celebrate without lying to your kids.
There’s a popular Easter T-shirt on Amazon with a slogan ‘Silly Rabbit, Easter is for Jesus’ that sums it up nicely, especially for Catholic/Christian families!
The Easter Bunny is a tradition created by adults to entertain children and give them a sense of happiness and surprise during the Easter holidays. But it’s not real, and kids should know this.
You don’t want to lie to your children. Even though it’s important to make them feel good during Easter time, or at other holidays, you can do so and still be honest.
Share the ‘story’ of the Easter Bunny, make colorful eggs and hide them, eat chocolate. You can tell them that there are traditions based on fictional characters or stories only for entertainment purposes.
Trust us, it’s easier to start out being honest and keeping ‘stories’ and traditions accurately, rather than dealing with the fallout when your kids discover the truth down the road and learn you have been lying to them (over and over). And of course, eventually, the truth will come out. After all, how many teenagers still believe in the Easter Bunny?
Other Easter Bunny Kid Questions
Below are some other Easter Bunny questions that seem to pop up from time to time. Hopefully this will help you when your own kids and grandkids ask for details!
How Old Is The Easter Bunny?
According to TrackEasterBunny.Com, the Easter Bunny is over 500 years old!
This is based on the idea that the earliest history of a bunny associated with Easter can be traced to the 1500s or so. However, you need to consider that the Easter Bunny has been in existence for much longer than the written stories which recount his exploits since oral history always comes first.
Why Do We Hide Easter Eggs And How Does The Easter Bunny help?
Easter holidays are marked by adventure and fun. One of the games played during this period is finding hidden Easter eggs with the help of the bunny. Children love this game, and the sheer excitement written on their faces when they find a hidden egg is priceless.
Most historians tie the hiding of Easter eggs to two reasons: to celebrate the end of winter and celebrate fertility. But most households don’t look at it like that. The main reason why Easter eggs are hidden for them is that it’s part of a game- passed down from the generations before them- to make Easter extra-special for their kids.
In addition to this, the Easter bunny has become part of this elaborate game as the one who does the hiding. The Easter Bunny is akin to Santa Claus at Christmas.
And as established before, rabbits have been traditionally connected to spring time and fertility, which is why a ‘bunny’ is used at Easter and not something else like a fish or squirrel.
For these reasons, families enjoy dying eggs, and talking about the Easter Bunny, even though they fully understand there is no Easter Bunny.
Is There An Easter Bunny Meme?
There are numerous Easter Bunny memes on the internet, and your kids may have already come across a few of them.
Some memes started from films like 1995’s Mallrats, or more recently, from 2010’s animated film, Megamind in which Titan yells out ‘there is no Easter Bunny!’ much to the dismay of little kids who’ve been lied to everywhere and their parents who did the lying.
meme: an amusing or interesting picture, video, etc., that is spread widely through the InternetMerriam-Webster
Those who like to use memes are usually into Social Media apps or emojis for texting. For instance, people might utilize the ‘there is no Easter Bunny’ meme as a tongue-in-cheek expression for saying something is ‘fake news’ or false in a post on Facebook or Twitter.
For a fun family activity, you can even work on creating ‘no Easter Bunny’ memes with your children (or grandkids if applicable). Maybe make it a new part of your holiday celebrations. This way they can enjoy the extra-celebrations of Easter but also acknowledge it’s all just in jest.
Wrapping Up There is No Easter Bunny
Well, to be clear, there is no (real) Easter Bunny, but the tradition of an Easter Bunny exists.
Easter is an important holiday, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus, for Catholics/Christians worldwide. However, the inclusion of an Easter bunny is part of a commercialization, and one of many secularizing additions.
Other non-religious additions to Easter are coloring and hiding eggs; baskets; and eating candy.
Parents who celebrate Easter for religious purposes can also include the Easter Bunny, but I urge them not to perpetuate the myth as if it’s real. Instead share stories about the Easter Bunny and eggs honestly-as part of the game of Easter.
Some other sources: St. Neots Museum; American Society of Animal Science; Pet Health Network