Of all the holidays on the calendar, Easter is one of the most confusing. There’s a very important religious aspect to the holiday for those in the Christian faith, but then there’s also a bunny, some Easter baskets, colorful eggs, and marshmallow chicks associated with the holiday. To an outsider, it may seem like utter chaos, but the symbols are actually all connected.
You won’t actually find a bunny or any eggs listed in the Bible. While the holiday is a deeply religious one for most people, none of the symbols so commonly thrown around at Easter are ever so much as mentioned in the Bible. Instead, the Easter Bunny and his eggs trace their roots back to a time before Christianity became an established religious force.
When you start looking at the eggs that are commonly considered a staple of Easter, you’re naturally led back to the bunny itself, and there’s quite a bit of controversy on where the bunny actually comes from. Research from the University of Florida’s Center for Children’s Literature and Culture suggests that the bunny and his eggs have roots in pre-Christian Germany. At the time, they were a polytheistic society, and one of their goddesses was Eostra. Her symbol was a rabbit. To amuse children, she changed her pet bird into a rabbit that brought eggs to the children, and when Roman Catholicism came into play later, those symbols carried over to the Easter holiday.
Another line of thought, though, holds that the entire Eostra story was actually just that, a myth. It wasn’t actually a worshiped goddess. Instead, the Venerable Bede made it up in a book written in 750 A.D. From there, it somehow made it into the history books as one of the single most important symbols associated with the holiday.
Whether Eostra was actually a worshiped goddess or just the imaginings of a monk, the Easter Bunny and his eggs came to America thanks to German immigrants in the 1700s. Eggs were fairly plentiful among Roman Catholics at that time of the year because of the fast for Lent, and families used the natural spring colors appearing in flowers and other plants to dye the eggs. The colors varied depending on the denomination. Eastern Orthodox Christians, for example, only use red eggs, even today, to symbolize the birth of Christ.
Those same eggs that were once the symbol (or the created symbol) of a goddess and the fertility of spring now delight children, even in their plastic form. The nests that were initially part of the legend have morphed into today’s baskets, and the symbolism seems stronger than ever.
Whether you’re dying actual eggs with the kids or eating the chocolate version this Easter season, take a moment to reflect on just how chaotic it is for a bunny to stop by your house with a basket of eggs on a holiday that is supposed to be about the resurrection of a religious figure. Then just shake it off and enjoy the Easter cookies and candy.