Here in Germany, Easter Sunday is the time to hide Easter eggs and small presents in gardens, houses – just about anywhere. But where does the story of the Easter bunny come from? Is it just a German idea or is it an international phenomenon?
Pleased to meet you: my name is Easter bunny/rabbit/hare …
The bad news: nobody knows for sure where the Easter bunny comes from exactly. It was first mentioned in 1682, in a book about Easter eggs by Georg Franck von Frankenau in which he criticized the excessive consumption of Easter eggs. The good news: we know that the Easter bunny was officially not the only character responsible for the eggs because he had competitors up until the 16th century. In Switzerland, it was the Easter cuckoo, in the State of Hesse the Easter fox, in Bohemia the Easter cock, and in Thuringia, it was the stork or the cock that brought the eggs. There are several theories to explain why we chose the bunny of all animals to celebrate Easter. First, the bunny is – just like the egg – a symbol of spring and fertility, and the rabbits give birth to large litters in early spring. A theory unsupported by scientific evidence is the link between the Easter bunny and the Germanic Spring Goddess, Ostara, whose symbols are the egg and the hare. There is also the funny, but rather implausible story of a baker whose Easter lambs somehow lost their shape in the oven and turned into Easter bunnies.
I think the Easter bunny has become established as the supplier of Easter eggs because of effective marketing. After all, the bunny is very easy to advertise with its cute appearance and who can resist a sweet chocolate bunny? Hardly anyone, although …
Rabbits, go home! Australia goes for #easterbilby
Hares and rabbits are not native to Australia. But once introduced by settlers from third countries, the animals reproduced incredibly fast – in fact, they are still breeding like rabbits. Unfortunately, they are also fast stripping everything bare and have thus robbed the indigenous animal species of their basic needs. This has happened to the small bilby, a rabbit-sized marsupial that has been on the endangered list since the 1970s. So the Easter rabbit does not have a very good image down under! This is why some years ago, the Australians started replacing the Easter bunny with the long-eared Easter bilby. And they have been doing so with increasing success! Proceeds from Easter bilby chocolate sales have been spent on anti-rabbit campaigns and on projects that protect endangered wild life in Australia.
Different countries, different customs – #toomanyeggs, branches, and water
Here is a selection of interesting Easter customs from all over the world – with and without eggs:
- • Bulgaria has the custom of egg tapping with colored eggs. In this egg fight, one person uses his own egg to knock the tip of the other person’s egg. The lucky winner is the person whose egg shell does not break. The winner can look forward to an especially happy year.
- • USA: In the garden of the White House, Easter Monday is the time for the annual White House Easter Egg Roll. This event not only features an egg roll downhill but plenty of other fun activities!
- • Along with colored eggs, water plays an important role in Poland: On Easter Monday, the Poles celebrate “Śmigus-Dyngus” with everyone drenching or sprinkling each other. This wet Monday is a good old-fashioned water fight and a reminder of the baptism of Prince Miezko I., who first brought Christianity to Poland.
- • In Finland, there is the tradition of hitting friends with birch branches – very lightly, of course. This is supposed to bring good luck. The birch branches represent the palm leaves that were used to greet Jesus in Jerusalem.
- • In Sweden, the houses are decorated with birch branches and colorful feathers. Also, on the Thursday before Easter, children go from house to house collecting sweets. And by the way, in Sweden, it is the Easter chicken that brings the eggs!
- • In Ireland, herring funerals are a special Easter custom. This is a symbolic act that sets the stage for the end of the fasting period. This tradition is gladly supported by the local butchers.
Do you know any other funny or interesting Easter customs? Please let us know!
Hard labor before Easter: blowing out #toomanyeggs
I personally don’t like eating colored, hard-boiled eggs but have always loved hiding the chocolate ones in the garden (and treading on the undiscovered eggs a couple of days later!). But I was never keen on blowing out all the eggs for kindergarten decorating activities. Just thinking about it makes my mouth hurt! Maybe I should have got one of those Easter egg blowers? Have you tried one of these? If they really work, it would be revolutionary!!