Since Easter holiday is near, I have seen hordes of rabbits and Easter eggs displayed. What is the association of rabbits and eggs with Easter, a religious holiday?

Since Easter holiday is near, I have seen hordes of rabbits and Easter eggs displayed. What is the association of rabbits and eggs with Easter, a religious holiday?

— Leo D., via mailtribune.com

Easter has long been a spiritual/mystical holiday, but it hasn't always been a "religious holiday," if that makes sense. Long before Christianity, Easter was honored as a celebration of springtime rebirth and renewal, a theme that continues with Christians celebrating Christ's resurrection. Modern Easter borrows some of the old traditions from other beliefs.

According to Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia (via History.com), scholars generally accept an explanation from 8th-century English scholar St. Bede, who wrote that Christian Easter came most directly from Eastre, the Anglo-Saxon name of a Teutonic goddess of spring and fertility to whom an entire month was dedicated (roughly April).

"Her festival was celebrated on the day of the vernal equinox; traditions associated with the festival survive in the Easter rabbit, a symbol of fertility, and in colored easter eggs, originally painted with bright colors to represent the sunlight of spring ... ."

German settlers in America likely brought us the first modern Easter bunny named "Oschter Haws," a bunny who delivered brightly colored eggs to children on Easter eve.

A wide variety of other sources confirm that eggs have long been seen as powerful mystical and magic symbols — imagine the wonder of a pagan seeing life emerge every spring from what appears to be an inanimate rock! They've held wondrous powers in just about every human culture, and Christians related the egg to the tomb that held Christ's body before he was resurrected.

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