Even before the final snow of winter has thawed, sometimes as early as February, you begin to see him on television, at the mall, even in miniature chocolate form at your local grocery story.
The Easter Bunny is one of the most notable (and delicious) signs of spring. He arrives every year to deliver pastel baskets laden with some of the best candy since Halloween and colorfully painted chicken eggs.
But who is this cotton-tailed holiday character?
For many ancient cultures, the arrival of spring also meant a sudden abundance of rabbits, making the long-eared creatures one of the many symbols of spring’s promise of new life. However, the first mention of rabbits and Easter can be traced back to German folklore around the 1600s, in which the ancient symbol became linked with the religious holiday. This festive rabbit became known as “Oschter Haws,” or the Easter Hare, and took on the role of a sort of Santa Claus character, bringing colored eggs to good children on Easter morning. German immigrants brought the Oschter Haws tradition with them to the U.S. in the 1700s, and the rest is history.
Carrots and Baskets and Eggs
Over the years, the Easter Bunny tradition became more creative and playful. In some cultures, children hide nests made out of hats, baskets, and pastel colored faux-grass for the fabled rabbit to deliver his eggs, chocolates, and other small gifts. Some even leave out carrots for the bunny in case he gets hungry during his night-long journey around the world.
For other families, the Easter Bunny provides a fun hide-and-seek game on Easter morning by leaving eggs scattered and hidden for the children to find and collect in their own baskets.
If you are especially fond of the Easter Bunny or rabbits in general, however, you may want to postpone your trip to New Zealand around the springtime. The Great Easter Bunny Hunt is an actual hunt for rabbits in an attempt to cut down on the overwhelming rabbit population. The event also helps raise money for charities and offers a grand prize for the hunter who brings in the most pests.
The Easter Bilby
In cultures where rabbits are a less than welcomed sight, another creature fills the Easter Bunny’s sizeable shoes. In Australia, rabbits are viewed as pests that cause millions of dollars worth of damage to crops every year and so, the Easter Bunny became the Easter Bilby. A bilby is a small marsupial that looks something like a rabbit if you ignore the extra pointy nose and long tail. As a native of Australia and an endangered species, the Easter Bilby is one attempt to raise awareness to protect the creature from extinction.
What do you think of the Easter Bunny? Is he a welcomed guest at your home or a furry pest? Let us know with a comment on the SLS Facebook.
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