The Secrets of the Easter Bunny

April 13, 2017

easter 2173193 1920Easter is the Christian holiday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, but how did it become associated with hiding eggs and an animal that doesn’t lay eggs? As with many other traditions, the origin of the Easter bunny is rooted in practices from long ago.

The Origin of the Easter Bunny

It’s not exactly known how the Easter bunny started, but it’s believed to have originated in Germany in the 1500s. It was based on the legend of the Osterhase, or Easter hare. The legend says that a poor woman hid eggs for her children to find. After they found the eggs, they saw a hare jumping away. The children believed the hare had left the eggs.  The story, and the Osterhase, were brought to America by German immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania in the 18th century. Children made nests where the Easter hare could lay his eggs, and this is why we have Easter baskets, though now they are filled with colorful, plastic grass. The tradition spread across the country and eventually included chocolate and other sweets that were added to the baskets.

The Easter Bunny wasn’t Originally a Bunny

The Osterhase was a hare, and hares and rabbits are different creatures. Hares are bigger than rabbits, have larger ears, and are less social than rabbits, or if you prefer, bunnies. They also live in nests and haven’t been domesticated. Somewhere down the line, the Easter hare became the Easter bunny.

But what’s with the eggs?

The symbol of an egg and a rabbit have represented life and rebirth for many centuries. It’s believed that decorating eggs for Easter goes back to the 13th century when eggs were dyed red to represent the blood of Christ’s crucifixion. In addition, the egg represented the tomb of Jesus. Eggs were also once forbidden to be eaten during the Lenten season and would be consumed on “Fat Tuesday” prior to the start of Lent. People decorated the eggs to signify the end of their fasting and would eat them on the celebration of Easter.

The Easter Bunny Isn’t Everywhere

Easter is celebrated differently by many other countries around the world. In Switzerland, for example, a cuckoo brings the Easter eggs. In Poland, boys drench anyone they can with water in a tradition that can be traced back to the baptism of a Polish prince in 966 AD. The Osterhase (the Easter hare) still does his thing in Germany, but there is also a tradition of the Osterbaum, a tree which is decorated with Easter eggs. And in Australia, the Easter bunny has been replaced somewhat by the Easter bilby, an endangered marsupial. The reason is because the bunny rabbit is not well liked in Australia since it became a formidable pest after its introduction to the continent in the 1850s. The rabbits’ prolific breeding has caused problems because the cute bunnies destroy crops and decimate native plants. Their numbers are currently estimated at 200 million.

Sources: Time,, Herald Zeitung, Woman’s Day, Journey to Germany, Rabbit Free Australia, NPR

Subscribe to our newsletter for a collection of stories that have been added to the Stew and get our FREE Ebook Quick Facts as a thank you.

About the author 

Daniel Ganninger - The writer, editor, and chief lackey of Knowledge Stew, the author of the Knowledge Stew line of trivia books, and editor of Fact World and the Knowledge Stew sister site on Medium, our ad-free subscription sites (you can find out how to join below). I hope you find things here to annoy those around you with your new found knowledge.

Follow the Stew

How to Join the Knowledge Stew Ad-Free Subscription Site on Medium

Join Medium now and get access to every story from Knowledge Stew and Fact World plus thousands of others ad-free. Your membership fee directly supports a continued stream of great content on Knowledge Stew and Fact World, and you’ll also get full access to thousands of other writers and stories on Medium. ($5 per month)