It may seem odd to many that a bunny has become part of the religious festival of Easter, but the truth is that the Easter Bunny origin goes further back than you might think!
The Easter Bunny Was a Pagan Symbol
The truth is that the Easter Bunny origin goes all the way back to pagan times, where most groups would celebrate the Spring Equinox (when the sun passes over the equator) at a similar time to when Easter is celebrated by Christian cultures today. The modern day word "Easter" actually comes from the name of a pagan goddess: Eostre. Eostre was the goddess of spring and carried the symbol of a rabbit or hare.
Hares and rabbits are known as some of the most fertile animals, and are known to reproduce around spring. Females are able to conceive a second litter of offspring when they are already pregnant with the first making them the perfect symbol of fertility for goddess Eostre, and the most obvious Easter bunny origin.
Transition of the Easter Bunny from Paganism to Christianity
The Christian festival of Easter shares many things in common with the pagan celebrations, but instead celebrates the death of Jesus and his resurrection days later. It's generally accepted that Christians took certain elements of the pagan tradition, such as the Easter rabbit, and used them as symbols for their own celebration.
The Germans were the first to create edible Easter bunnies in the 1800s, and the tradition continued with those who settled in America. The settlers began to tell stories to their children about an Easter Hare who would leave behind coloured eggs for those who were well-behaved. The hare would place the eggs in the boys' caps and girls' bonnets, which soon evolved to baskets.
This is how the Easter Bunny is still seen today, and many parents continue to tell their children the story of the bunny who leaves them chocolate eggs on the night before Easter each year.
Why Exchange Eggs?
Exchanging eggs was also an ancient tradition of many cultures, who regarded them as a symbol of new life. This became the ideal symbol for the Christian festival of Easter, which is about the resurrection of Jesus (i.e. new life). However, Easter eggs and the Easter Bunny have also evolved into completely secular celebrations of spring-time. Chocolate eggs and Easter egg hunts have proved very popular traditions for children!
As you can see, the Easter Bunny origin goes back very far in history - it's not just some modern day creation! It's hard to know exactly how the links between the different stories began, but it's clear that the Easter Bunny has ancient roots.