It is commonly thought that the word Easter comes from a pagan figure called Eastre (or Eostre) who was celebrated as the goddess of spring by the Saxons of Northern Europe. The only problem with this theory is that it has no basis in history. The existence of a goddess named Eastre or a spring festival in her honor is based on pure conjecture. The same is true of the origin of the Easter bunny and Easter eggs—no one knows for sure how these things became a part of Easter observances. The most we can say is that the word Easter is probably related to the word east (ost in German) and that the Saxons had a month they called Eosturmononath.
The legend of the Easter bunny bringing eggs appears to have been brought to the United States by settlers from Germany. The German tradition of the Easter bunny (or Oschter Haws) migrated to America in the 1700s, accompanying German immigrants, many of whom settled in Pennsylvania. Over the past 200 years, the Easter bunny has become the most commercially recognized symbol of Easter in the United States. Other countries use other animals as the symbol of Easter, such as the cuckoo (in Switzerland).
In legend, the Easter bunny, also called the Easter hare and the spring bunny, brings baskets filled with colored eggs, candy, and sometimes toys to the homes of children on the night before Easter, in much the same way as Santa Claus is said to deliver presents on Christmas Eve. The Easter Bunny will either put the baskets in a designated place or hide them somewhere in the house or garden for the children to find when they wake up in the morning, giving rise to the tradition of the Easter egg hunt. Obviously, none of this comes from the Bible.
Should Christian parents allow their children to participate in traditional activities that refer to the Easter bunny? This is a question both parents and church leaders struggle with. There is nothing essentially evil about the Easter bunny. What is important is our focus. If our focus is on Christ and not the Easter bunny, our children will understand that, like Santa Claus, the Easter bunny is merely a symbol. Easter should be a time to reflect upon and celebrate the resurrection of Christ.
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