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The surprising origins of the Easter Bunny -- it's not what you think!
The Easter Bunny is a symbol of Easter that is popular in western culture, especially with children. According to folklore, the Easter Bunny hides Easter eggs for children to find on Easter morning. However, the association between a rabbit and the resurrection of Jesus Christ appears tenuous at best, and the Easter Bunny has been accused of having pagan origins. But what is the truth?
Rejoice! The beloved Easter Bunny has very Christian origins.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Rabbits are common and found on every continent except Antarctica. Rabbits are also prolific breeders, especially in the spring when they are most commonly seen interacting with one another. As a result of their fertility, rabbits have long been associated with spring and with new life. Even the Greeks pointed out this connection.
However, the Christian tradition of the Easter Bunny has distinctly Christian origins.
The ancient Greeks thought rabbits could reproduce as virgins. Such a belief persisted until early medieval times when the rabbit became associated with the Virgin Mary, who we know became pregnant without knowing man.
During the medieval period, rabbits began appearing in illuminated manuscripts and paintings where the Virgin Mary was depicted, serving as an allegorical illustration of her virginity.
The Easter Bunny was first popularized as a symbol of the season by the German Protestants. It is likely they were the ones to invent the myth of the Easter Bunny for their children. Even in earliest folklore, the Easter Bunny came as a judge, hiding decorated eggs for well-behaved children.
The Easter Bunny followed German immigrants to the American colonies in the 18th century and the folklore spread across the United States.
The notion that the Easter Bunny is a pagan symbol developed in the 19th century. In 1835, Jacob Grimm, the popular collector of fairy tales, suggested that the Easter Bunny came from primitive German pagan traditions. Once Grimm started the rumor, it began to spread, refined to suggest the Easter Bunny comes from the Saxon Goddess Eostre.
However, there is no direct evidence of a pagan correlation. The first intimation of a connection arose from Jacob Grimm, and although he was a folklorist, he had no hard evidence other than his own speculation.
Conversely, there is considerable documentation that the rabbit was once associated with virginity, the Virgin Mary, and with the season itself, in a Christian context.
As a result, we must conclude, the Easter Bunny is a distinctly Christian symbol, and does not have pagan origins as occasionally claimed by those who despise the popular children's myth.
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