Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 29 May 2020

From mythology to Hollywood: the story of the Easter Bunny

The Easter Bunny’s story grew from pagan traditions to a modern day children’s favourite

The Easter Bunny has long been a staple for children around the world. Getty Images
The Easter Bunny has long been a staple for children around the world. Getty Images

Just as there is no Christmas without Santa Clause, there can be no Easter celebrations without the Easter Bunny.

But where did this lovable big-eared fuzz ball come from? And why does it deliver eggs?

Like the big man in red, the Easter Bunny’s hazy origins are based in equal parts paganism, Christianity and mythology. The story involves a regretful Goddess, a long hard winter and a big celebration.

A pagan past

Before the arrival of Christianity, a pagan celebration was held to mark the March Equinox, with tributes paid to the Germanic fertility goddess Eastre or Eostre. Her symbol was a white hare.

The reason why the hare was adopted, according to Sarah Ben Breathnach's 1990 book Mrs Sharp Traditions, is that the goddess arrived late one year, thus prolonging a particularly brutal winter. Pained to see a bird with frozen wings, she transformed it into to a snow hare with the ability to produce coloured eggs once a year during the equinox celebrations.

Easter time is coming. Lee Hoagland / The National
Easter time is coming. Lee Hoagland / The National

The celebration and its symbols were eventually adopted by Christianity when in AD 325, the Emperor Constantine resolved that Easter should be a fix date in the religious calendar, to be held on the first Sunday after the first full moon of the equinox.

How the Easter Bunny went global

Until the 1700s, celebrations surrounding the Easter Bunny were common practice in Germanic regions. According to the History Channel, it was German immigrants who first brought the bunny and its associated customs to the US. The promise of chocolate delivered by a white bunny for good behaviour spread across the states until it became a major feature of the celebrations.

What truly took the bunny global, however, was its role in popular culture. It's the kind of character filmmakers dream off: one with a mysterious past, and a jovial intent on spreading cheer among children. Who could resist? The Easter Bunny has played a major role since motion pictures existed.

It was celebrated in the 1948 Fred Astaire film Easter Parade, appeared in countless Bugs Bunny cartoons, in addition to having its own movie in the form of 2011’s 3D live action film Hop, starring UK comic Russel Brand as the voice of the Easter Bunny.

The Easter Bunny (voiced by Russell Brand) in Hop.
The Easter Bunny (voiced by Russell Brand) in Hop.

But adults are also not oblivious to its charms. Chris Klein and Joe Mantegna played hard living Easter Bunnies in the 2008 buddy comedy Hank and Mike, while horror film lovers celebrated the rabbit through the B grade thrills of the 2010 film Easter Bunny Blood Bath.

From a mythical barren winter to the glitz of Hollywood, the Easter Bunny’s appeal continues to spread far and wide.

Updated: April 9, 2020 05:06 PM

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