April 17, 2014
What’s up with an Easter Bunny and how did a rabbit came to symbolize a holiday anyway? Even though rabbits were a symbol of the moon in ancient Egypt it’s still a leap to make the connection today to milk chocolate Easter bunnies. Not to mention a huge Easter bunny handing out decorated eggs to little smiling, cherub faces at a mall—making an Easter Bunny feel like Santa in the spring. Speaking of eggs, ever wonder how eggs became a symbol of Easter? Most folks just grow up accepting that we dye eggs in a variety of hues then mom and pop hide them in the backyard so we kids can push and shove each other out of the way trying to find the one marked ‘five dollar prize.’ Or maybe that was just at my house. Either way, eggs and rabbits just don’t seem to mix.
Unless you delve deeper, as I have…just to pass on some little known facts about how the traditions we celebrate today came to fruition. Hmm, which came first the rabbit or the egg? Quite possibly the egg, as it has always been a symbol to celebrate fertility and rebirth. Some ancient cultures even held myths that the earth was hatched from an egg. Not too far out of the box when one considers every living thing started as an egg.
Coloring eggs red, in honor of spring, and exchanging them dates all the way back to Babylonia and Egypt. You’ve heard, “when in Rome…” well, in this case the Romans were doing as others do and adopted dyeing eggs but expanded the color spectrum. Eastern Europe joined in the fun and took decorating to the next level by creating beautifully embellished eggs with intricate designs holding special meaning. Well, that was all the Russians needed to put Easter eggs on steroids. In fact, the fabulous Fabergé eggs were created as extravagant gifts for Russian royalty. And who needs to be Russian to enjoy these exquisitely crafted eggs?
One more tidbit about eggs, did you know eggs once served as birth certificates in Germany during the 19th century? Apparently many families lived far from town and couldn’t arrive immediately to record a birth. So an egg was dyed, then the name, date and place of birth was etched into the shell. Later when the family traveled to town the egg was handed over to the authorities to record the birth. And it was totally legal. How cool is that?! Hmm, I wonder if the egg was raw or hard-boiled.
Anyway, all this egg business doesn’t explain rabbits. The goddess Eostre (where Easter got its name) was the “goddess of the growing light of spring” and had a hare (rabbit) which symbolized fertility also. Dickens, who wouldn’t agree rabbits are the epitome of fertility? Yet, the persona of the actual Easter Bunny, which we see in children’s books and dressed up handing out eggs, started in Germany when a costumed Bunny started delivering treats to the wee ones. Like leaving milk and cookies for Santa, children created nests for the eggs birthing the creation of the Easter basket.
Let’s see…eggs…bunnies…fertility… Gee, what haven’t I mentioned? Oh, yeah. Why is Easter a different date each year? I’m glad you asked because it’s technical. You see, Easter is the first Sunday after the full Moon after the Vernal Equinox (first day of spring). Not exactly set in stone for such a pious holiday. This year, since the March full moon was before the equinox that meant Easter had to fall after the April full moon, which as of this writing is tonight (15th).
And that’s how we have eggs and bunnies for Easter.
Wait! I forgot to talk about ham. Well dickens, maybe next year. Friends have a safe, joyful and very blessed Easter.
Can you imagine…having your birth certificate over easy?