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The Easter Bunny

Easter is quintessentially the Christian holiday.  The resurrection of Jesus, after all, is what the entire faith is based on.  But the Easter Bunny?  Comon!  To understand what the Easter Bunny has to do with modern day Christianity, like most things, we have to go way back, in this case to the ancient Saxons who lived in northern Europe before Jesus walked the earth.  (Duncan)

The Saxon’s “goddess of dawn, spring, and fertility” was Eostre, or Eastre, (Soniak) and every spring they would celebrate her return “with an uproarious festival....” (Correll-Wright)  Included in that festival were various symbols of fertility, which included, quite naturally, eggs and rabbits. (Soniak)  After all, what could be more fertile than a rabbit?  There is a reason why people say, “Hump like bunnies.”  Rabbits reach sexual maturity very quickly, and they can become pregnant while they are pregnant.  So it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that they have been a fertility symbol for a long, long time. (Easter Bunny)

It was in the Second Century after the birth of Christ that Christian missionaries made their way into Northern Europe.  Whatever one might think of the early Christian missionaries, they weren’t stupid.  They knew that if they were to have any hope of converting the pagans, or staying alive, for that matter, then they couldn’t tell them to stop having a good time.  That would have to wait until later.  Therefore, it was common to allow the pagans to continue celebrating their holidays, but in a more Christian manner, and Easter was no different.  (Correll-Wright)  “The Eostre festival occurred around the same time as the Christians' celebration of Christ's resurrection, so the two celebrations became one.”  The pagans got Christianity, and the Christians got the bunny and the eggs.  (Soniak)

In modern times, the first mention of the Easter Bunny was in 1682 by the German writer Georg Franck von Franckenau, who wrote about the “German tradition of an Easter Hare bringing Easter Eggs for the children.”  (Easter Bunny)  The Easter Bunny made its way to America in the 1700s with the Germans who settled in the Pennsylvania Dutch country.  Originally, children would build “nests” so “Oschter Haws” would place colourful eggs there... but only if they were good.  (Duncan)  As the tradition spread throughout the country, the “nests” morphed into increasingly more elaborate baskets.  (Easter Traditions:  Easter Bunny History)  The first edible Easter bunnies, which were made out of pastry and sugar, also come from Germany dating back to the early 1800s.  (Mooney)


So why does the date for Easter Sunday hop around more than a bunny?

It wasn’t until 325 C.E. that Emperor Constantine, at the Council of Nicaea, decreed that “...Easter shall be celebrated on the first Sunday that occurs after the first full moon on or after the vernal equinox,” which is also known as the Paschal, or Passover, Full Moon.  Of course, not wanting to make anything that simple, it couldn’t just be any old full moon.  It had to be an ecclesiastical full moon, which isn’t necessarily a full moon at all. (Paschal Full Moon)

Here it is necessary to differentiate between an ecclesiastical calendar, which is based on the cycles of the moon as it orbits the earth and repeats itself every nineteen years, and a civil calendar, which is based on the earth’s relative position orbiting the sun.  The civil calendar is what most people in the Western world use to show up to work on Mondays.  The ecclesiastical calendar, which is based on 29 and 30 day lunar months, is what Easter is based on.  (Paschal Full Moon)

The first day of each lunar month is known as an ecclesiastical new moon, which can vary up to two days from the actual new moon.  Between March 8 and April 5 is the vernal equinox, the first day of Spring in the northern hemisphere.  It is between those particular dates that only one ecclesiastical new moon will ever fall in any given year, and that particular ecclesiastical new moon marks the beginning of the Paschal lunar month.  The fourteenth day of the Paschal lunar month marks the Paschal full moon (whether the moon is full or not), and the first Sunday after that “full moon” is Easter.  (Paschal Full Moon)

Based on when Easter will be, all of the various observances associated with Easter are dated from then.  Lent, the Christian period of fasting, begins 46 days prior to Easter.  It represents the 40 days that Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness, plus the six Sundays that fall during that time.  Sundays were meant to be a day of celebration; therefore, they were not originally seen as fasting days.  46 days before Easter Sunday is a Wednesday, Ash Wednesday.  And the Tuesday before that Wednesday is Mardi Gras, which is French for “Fat Tuesday.”  If you’re going to be giving up everything fun for the next six and a half weeks, then it only makes sense to party all you can before hand.  And, of course, there is Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter Sunday, and Easter Monday.  As well, the Sunday after Easter in England is known as Low Sunday, and the following Monday and Tuesday are Hocktide, which, apparently, you have to be British to understand.  (Correll-Wright)  And forty days after Easter is Ascension Thursday. (Richert)  Kinda makes you glad with Christmas they just said, “Close enough.”


Work Cited

Correll-Wright, Arlene.  “The History of Easter and the Easter Bunny.”  Plancy Pages Publishing.  20 Dec. 2013.  http://www.phancypages.com/newsletter/ZNewsletter2599.htm

Duncan, Sandi.  “Where Did the Easter Bunny Originate From?”  Life 123.  20 Dec. 2013.  http://www.life123.com/holidays/easter/easter-traditions/where-did-easter-bunny-originate.shtml

“Easter Bunny.”  19 Dec. 2013.  Wikipedia.  20 Dec. 2013.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Easter_Bunny

“Easter Traditions:  Easter Bunny History.”  2000.  Easter Bunny’s.Net.  20 Dec. 2013.  http://www.easterbunnys.net/easterbunnyhistory.htm

Mooney, Belinda.  “Where did the Easter Bunny Come from?  10 Apr. 2009.  Farmers’ Almanac.  20 Dec. 2013.  http://www.farmersalmanac.com/blog/2009/04/10/where-did-the-easter-bunny-come-from/

“Paschal Full Moon.”  16 Aug. 2013.  Wikipedia.  20 Dec. 2013. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paschal_Full_Moon

Richert, Scott. P.  “When is Ascension?”  2013.  About.com: Catholicism.  20 Dec. 2013.  http://catholicism.about.com/od/When-Is/f/When-Is-Ascension.htm

Soniak, Matt.  “Where Did The Easter Bunny Come From?”  29 Mar. 2013.  Mental Floss.  20 Dec. 2013.  http://mentalfloss.com/article/21411/where-did-easter-bunny-come