R is for Rabbit!
It seems everywhere you go this time of year, Rabbits are taking over! Now it doesn't take too much imagination to figure out why the prolific breeders are a symbol of Spring but have you ever thought about when and why they became associated with Easter? I have to be honest and confess, I never gave it much thought.
I guess even as a child, I always knew there was no Biblical connection between the rabbit, colored eggs and Easter but just how did they become so ingrained with this most sacred of holidays? I went to Church every Sunday and knew the truth of Jesus' death and Resurrection as the reason for celebrating Easter but the Easter bunny always paid a visit to our house as well. Imagine my surprise when I started researching the topic for this post and discovered so much controversy swirling around this beloved furry little creature! I found some very hostile reports that ran the gamut from pagans protesting the use of "their" symbols, to Christians who believe the very celebration of Easter itself is devil worship.
So exactly how did this all come about? Well, in pre-Christian Europe, pagans held celebrations of Spring and re-birth and the Hare and eggs were both symbols of fertility during these festivities. In an ancient Anglo-Saxon myth, the goddess Eostre was associated with Spring and fertility and her symbols were the hare and eggs. An old tale says that one Winter day Eostre was walking through a forest when she came upon a small bird, nearly starved to death and freezing. She turned the small bird into a Rabbit so it could survive the winter. When the Spring came around, the rabbit started laying eggs because it was once a bird. The Rabbit then decorated the eggs to show it's gratitude to Eostre.
OK, I know I still haven't answered the question, well I'm getting to that! This part of the story begins in the year 325 A.D. when emperor Constantine I, convened the council in Nicaea where early Christian dignitaries decided that from then on The Resurrection of Christ (Easter) would be celebrated on the first Sunday after the full moon in spring.
In pre-Christian Northern Europe, England was populated by Anglo-Saxon pagans and had not been converted to Catholicism. Gregory the Great who was pope from 590 to 604 felt the conversion would be more easily accomplished if the pagans were allowed to keep their pagan traditions along with Christians traditions and observations. Since The Resurrection now coincided with the Pagan's Spring festivities, the traditions of the Rabbit and the egg became part of the Easter traditions. When the conversion spread to Germany and other parts of Northern Europe, their Pagan traditions were also "absorbed" into religious observations.
However; the first recorded references of the Easter Rabbit would not come until 1682 in Germany when Professor Georg Franck von Frankenau mentioned eggs and rabbits in relation to Easter in his book "De ovis paschalibus", (About Easter Eggs). German immigrants who settled in the Pennsylvania Dutch areas of America would bring the tradition of coloring and hiding eggs and the Easter Rabbit to this country. So there you have it! Do you decorate with Rabbits and colored eggs at this time of year? I find them irresistible and if seeing a Rabbit or a colored egg reminds you of Easter and the Resurrection of Christ, then who am I to say they should have no part in our Easter observances, as long as they don't become the focus! Have a great weekend, Nan
I'm linking this to:
Alphabe Thursday and the Letter R at Jenny Matlocks
Vintage Thingie Thursday at Colorado Lady