Thursday, March 22, 2012

R for Rabbit

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
and
Vintage Thingie Thursday at Colorado Lady 

14 comments:

  1. These remind me of Easter time when I was little and we got gift boxes from relatives in Germany! Thanks for sharing this!

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  2. well thank you for sharing that. I really had wondered about this very thing recently! it is so important to remember the real reason we celebrate easter.. just like Christmas.. and yes, it is so easy to get lost and caught up in all the shenanagans (of which i love!) of the easter bunny and santa claus.
    but where would we be with out the truth and the resurrection!?
    thanks for a great post!
    xoxo
    vivian

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  3. Hi Nane,

    I enjoyed reading your post today about the wonderful rabbit! I have one right now snacking on my tulips as they come up - shame on him or her! Great post for our letter this week. Blessings to you.

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  4. I have millions of rabbits running around here most of the time and I love watching them. I can understand why they were incorporated into the celebration of the resurrection.

    I like the chocolate ones the best! lol...

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  5. Nan,
    I love the new look to your blog!!!!! And thanks for the graphics! :) Sandy

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  6. Great post on how traditions blend and develop over time. Our bunny would fail miserably as the easter bunny since he likes to eat the chocolates himself. Maybe that's why he's such a fat wabbit! heehee.

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  7. I had never heard the story of the bird being turned into a bunny. Cute. Interesting. I like your vintage cards and stories.

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  8. How does chocolate fit into this though? ;P

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  9. That was very interesting! I don't think any country 'does' Easter better than Germany. The religious and the secular come together and the country erupts in colour, flowers, rabbits - gorgeous! I love the vintage Easter post cards. I think that Miss Jenny ought to give you an A+ for this one!

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  10. I've always assumed that eggs were somehow symbolic of tombs and new life, but I've never understood how the humble bunny fitted in. Now I know :)

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  11. my sister was just telling me this the other day :-)

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  12. This was Really interesting... I never knew this about the Easter bunny...

    Great post for the letter "R"!

    Thanks for linking.

    A+

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I appreciate each and every one of your comments! Thank you for taking the time to leave such nice words!