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What is the origin of the Easter bunny and Easter eggs?

Sometime between Valentine's Day and the beginning of spring, U.S. retail and grocery stores seem to experience an invasion of pastel-colored eggs, painted wicker baskets, and little furry bunnies. Not to mention the bags and bags of candy. These things are all indicators that Easter is coming. But wait—isn't Easter about the resurrection of Christ? What do bunnies and eggs and candy have to do with the return of Jesus? Well, nothing.

Just as the origins of Easter itself are rather obscure, so is the reasoning behind associating bunnies and eggs with Easter celebrations. Maybe the bunny thing goes back to a belief that the word "Easter" originated from the name of the pagan goddess of spring, Eastre (or Eostre) and that her favorite animal was a bird which she turned into a hare when she got mad at it.

Maybe the eggs thing comes from the old Orthodox custom of fasting from eggs during Lent; to keep the eggs from going to waste, they were first boiled, then consumed when breaking the fast weeks later. Or maybe because rabbits and eggs are associated with fertility and Easter is in the spring, it's all tied to the emergence of new life at springtime. Truthfully, no one really knows for sure why bunnies or eggs are linked to Easter.

The Easter Bunny Legend

Even though we don't know WHY bunnies are associated with Easter, we do know where in the world this idea originated. Did you know that different countries associate different animals with Easter? For example, Switzerland uses the cuckoo bird as their Easter symbol. Neat! Some regions in Germany used to associate a fox with Easter, but Germans also had an interesting legend about a bunny named Oschter Haws.

In this legend, the Easter bunny (a.k.a. Easter hare or spring bunny) judges children by their good or bad behavior, then brings little baskets filled with colored eggs, candy, and even toys to good little boys and girls on the eve of Easter. (Yes, kind of like Santa Claus.) The Easter bunny would either put the baskets in a certain place, such as a "nest" the children would prepare, or he would hide the gifts as a game. This, of course, gave rise to the tradition of the Easter egg hunt.

Back in the 1700s, German immigrants settled in the east and brought their rich traditions and legends with them. Americans slowly picked up on these stories and reimagined the idea of the Easter bunny over the last 200 years. Now the Easter bunny is one of the most commercially-recognized symbols of Easter in the United States.

Obviously, none of this has anything to do with the resurrection of Christ.

Is it wrong for Christians allow the Easter bunny or Easter eggs to be a part of their Easter Sunday?

Look, there is nothing inherently evil about the Easter bunny or Easter eggs. However, if your parents have said your family is not going to associate with commercialized Easter, you must respect that decision (Ephesians 6:1). If they don't mind or don't care though, then incorporating the Easter bunny or eggs into your Easter Sunday is a matter of conviction between you and God (John 16:8; John 16:13).

If you give or receive stuff associated with commercialized Easter and it isn't hurting anybody, that's perfectly OK. If you decide you personally don't want anything to do with Easter eggs or the Easter bunny, that's OK too. Either way, be sure to keep your personal convictions, well, personal. Your convictions may not be the same as someone else's, so let everybody do their own thing. (See Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8.)

What's important about Easter Sunday is that you remember what the true focus is: reflecting upon and celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. If you choose to enjoy things like the Easter bunny and dying Easter eggs, that doesn't mean you lack faith; it says nothing about what you believe regarding Christ's resurrection. The bunny and the eggs are just symbols, like Santa Claus; they only have as much power as you give them.

Want to know when Easter is this year? Here's an easy way to figure it out: LMGTFY.

TL;DR

What do bunnies, eggs, and candy have to do with the return of Jesus? Well, nothing. Truthfully, no one knows for sure why bunnies or eggs are linked to Easter. We DO know that German immigrants brought the Easter bunny legend (a.k.a. Oschter Haws) to America in the 1700s. This bunny functioned a lot like Santa Claus, rewarding good kids with gifts on the eve of Easter. While there's nothing inherently evil about the Easter bunny or Easter eggs, if your parents have said your family will not associate with commercialized Easter, you must respect that decision (Ephesians 6:1). If they don't mind or don't care though, then incorporating the Easter bunny or eggs into your Easter Sunday is a matter of conviction between you and God (John 16:8; John 16:13).

By: Catiana Nak Kheiyn

Cat is the web producer and editor of 412teens.org. She loves audiobooks, feeding the people she cares about, and using Christmas lights to illuminate a room. When Catiana is not writing, cooking, or drawing, she enjoys spending time with her two kids, five socially-awkward cats, and her amazing friend-amily.

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