Is there really an Easter Bunny? Why do we create Easter baskets filled with chocolate eggs? Who better to ask than Claude the enchanted hare?
Claude tells me that the tradition of the Easter Bunny started in Germany in the 17th century. Rabbits and eggs were ancient symbols of fertility and spring represented rebirth and the resurrection of new life. It is not known exactly when egg decorating became popular. In the early church, Christians would boil their eggs with flowers or vegetables to color them. Eggs were often dyed red to represent Christ’s sacrifice on the cross or green to represent spring.
Osterhase is the name of the Easter Bunny in Germany, but actually translates as Easter Hare. The Osterhase would decorate the eggs and hide them in the garden for the children to collect on Easter. In some parts of Germany other animals also distributed eggs such as the fox, rooster, stork and chick. But these other animals, aside from the chick, lost their delivery roles over the years.
The “egg laying bunny” surfaced in the U.S. during the 18th century by way of German immigrants in the Pennsylvania Dutch area. There was a tradition of creating “nests” for the rabbit to lay its eggs in. Only good children received a visit from the Osterhase who would leave eggs and small gifts. Overtime, these nests became baskets and chocolate eggs replaced hard boiled ones.
For beautiful and traditional German Easter decorations, D. Blumchen & Co. is a wonderful source. They have charming old fashioned Osterhase candy containers, decorated eggs, and vintage cutouts.
Another enchanting Easter tradition is the diorama sugar egg. A large frosted egg holds a miniature sugary scene of rabbits or chicks. Attributed to the Victorians and all their frothy fussiness, these sugar eggs have amazed and delighted children for over a hundred years. Though difficult to find now, you can buy them online at sugareggs.com.
Have a Happy Easter and I hope you celebrate with your own religious and cultural traditions to make the day meaningful, fun and blessed.
And just to be safe, leave a little nest for the Osterhase. He might just surprise you with some chocolate eggs.