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April 8, 2007

Easter 101

Does anyone wonder we color eggs at Easter? What's up with the Easter Bunny? And why in the world is it laying eggs?

I was. So I looked it up. :) A couple of blurbs, below...

Why eggs?
Eggs, like rabbits and hares, are fertility symbols of extreme antiquity; since birds lay eggs and rabbits and hares give birth (to large litters) in the early spring, these became symbols of the rising fertility of the earth at the Vernal Equinox.

And why color them?
The precise origin of the custom of coloring eggs is not known, although it too is ancient; Greeks to this day typically dye their Easter eggs red, the color of blood, in recognition of the renewal of life in springtime (and, later, the blood of the sacrificed Christ). Some also use the color green, in honor of the new foliage emerging after the long "dead" time of winter. Other colors, including the pastels popular in the United States and elsewhere (possibly symbolizing the rainbow), seem to have come along later.

Why is a bunny laying eggs anyway?
Recently, a neopagan legend has sprung up concerning the Easter Bunny. Though it is usually circulated as an ancient Pagan tradition, it does not appear before 1990; According to the story, the goddess Eostre found a wounded bird in the snow. To help the little bird survive the winter, she transformed it into a rabbit, but the transformation was incomplete and the rabbit retained the ability to lay eggs. In thanks for its life being saved, the rabbit took the eggs and decorated them and left them as gifts for Eostre.

Some other traditions....

Some communities in the United States have renamed the animal the "Spring Bunny," to avoid perceived religious overtones. This has provoked some controversy.

In Hungary children prepare nests, in which the Bunny will leave eggs, chocolates and other presents. Sometimes the parents present a live rabbit to their child.

In Australia, rabbits are an invasive species and generally considered pests. A long-running campaign to replace the Easter Bunny with the Easter Bilby, a native marsupial, yielded moderate success. Easter Bilbies are a common and unremarked sight in many Australian stores around Easter. The sale of chocolate Easter Bilbies was to fund raise for the "Save the Bilby" campaign. [2] As the bilby is a threatened species,[3] it does not have the same connotations as rabbits, and the Easter Bunny remains considerably more recognized and better-known.

In France and Belgium, the eggs are said to be dropped from the sky by the cloches de Pâques (Easter bells). In Christian tradition, church bells were silenced on Good Friday, out of respect for the death of Christ and rang again on Easter morning to celebrate the resurrection. The church bells, represented as flying bells (with wings), are said to have gone to Rome and flown back on Easter morning, loaded with eggs which they drop on their way back.

Now you know.

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