As a rabbit lover, you might be wondering about the connection between our fluffy friends and chocolate eggs. We explain the origins of the Easter Bunny and share five fun seasonal facts.
Rabbits are closely associated with Easter but, on the face of it, there’s not an obvious connection between them and chocolate eggs. So how did the Easter Bunny end up hopping onto the scene?
Historically, rabbits, hares and eggs were pagan fertility symbols signifying spring and new life. The Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre was usually depicted with a hare as her symbolic animal, with her other sacred symbol being the egg.
Pagans celebrated Eostre at the beginning of spring. As Christianity spread through Europe, however, Christians adopted the festival named after her – Easter – as a way to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
The modern concept of an Easter Bunny appears to date back to the 1600s, when it was first mentioned in German writings. The so-called ‘Oschter Haws’, or Easter Hare, was known for laying nests of colourful eggs as gifts for well-behaved children.
In the 1700s, German immigrants took the tradition of the Easter Hare to America. By the 1800s, the Easter Hare had become the Easter Bunny, who brought chocolates and toys in addition to eggs. This tradition soon made its way to our shores.
Chocolate bunnies were first created in Germany in the mid-nineteenth century. But it wasn’t until 1890 when their popularity really took off – after American shop owner Robert Strohecker used a five-foot-tall chocolate bunny for an Easter promotion in his store.
Today the Easter Bunny is a beloved figure for children in many countries. But there are plenty of places where someone else gets the fun of bearing chocolate gifts. In Switzerland, Easter eggs are delivered by a cuckoo and in parts of Germany by a fox. In Australia, where wild rabbits are considered to be pests, the Easter Bunny has a rival in the form of the Easter Bilby, an endangered marsupial. Sweden even has the legend of the Easter Wizard.
While the fictional Easter Bunny is synonymous with chocolate, it’s important that real-life bunnies give chocolate a miss. Chocolate is toxic to rabbits – they should be enjoying a high-fibre diet based on grass and hay instead.
5 fun Easter facts
- Around 80 million chocolate eggs and bunnies are sold in the UK each Easter.
- The average British adult will eat 126 Easter eggs during the course of their lifetime.
- The world’s largest chocolate rabbit was made in Brazil in 2017. It stood 4.52m high and weighed 4,245kg.
- Around 60% of chocolate-lovers eat their bunnies’ ears first, with 4% starting at the feet or going in at the tail.
- The world’s most expensive non-jewelled chocolate Easter egg sold at auction in London for £7,000 in 2012.
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