When most North American Christians celebrate Easter, their festivities include the Easter Bunny, a mythical creature whose origin is distinctly pagan.
The myth is simple: the Easter Bunny leaves baskets of treats (primarily egg-shaped chocolates) on Easter morning for children whose good behaviour deserves a reward. Sometimes children leave carrots for the Easter Bunny, just as they leave milk and cookies for Santa Claus.
So how did this rogue rabbit infiltrate Christians’ commemoration of Easter?
Rabbits procreate prolifically. So they’ve long been a symbol of fertility and perpetual renewal. For obvious reasons, eggs are also widely regarded as symbolic of new life. And spring itself is universally recognized as the time of rebirth. So it’s easy to see how rabbits and eggs might, over a thousand years or so, become intertwined with Christians’ springtime celebration of their savior’s resurrection.
In North America, the idea of an egg-laying rabbit dates back to the 1700s when German immigrants in Pennsylvania regaled their children with tales of "Osterhase,” or "Oschter Haws.” English translation: “Easter Bunny.” Every spring—about the same time as the Christian Easter festivities—parents told kids to use their caps and bonnets to make a nest for the bunny, perhaps in the barn or the garden. “If you’ve been good,” they said, “the bunny will lay coloured eggs in your nest.”
The Easter Bunny tradition has evolved, with chocolate eggs largely replacing hen’s eggs, and baskets replacing the nests, but it otherwise remains much the same as it was practiced more than 300 years ago. Children and adults who’ve been really good receive Bernard Callebaut chocolate eggs and bunnies.
It’s interesting to note that in Australia, where rabbits are seriously invasive and therefore considered pests, parents have substituted the Easter Bilby for the Easter Bunny. The bilby is a common, harmless marsupial native to Australia.