Easter is upon us and Easter bunnies and Easter eggs are everywhere. I personally love the chocolate version of both. But, seriously, have you ever wondered what hares and eggs have to do with the religious background of Easter? I certainly have and went to do some research. Here is what I found.
Apparently it was us Germans who got the egg, I mean the ball, rolling. The tradition of a hare bringing eggs to children at Easter is first mentioned in a story dating from 1682 by Georg Franck von Franckenau, a German physicist and botanist. The hare in question was depicted in clothes and as a judge who evaluated the kids’ behavior during Lent. If they had been good, they got colored eggs for Easter. The ‘Osterhase’ very much resembles Santa Claus in that respect.
Now, let’s see if there is a religious background. The hare is a frequent motif in medieval church art. In antiquity the hare was considered a hermaphrodite who could give birth to several litters without losing its virginity. Apparently, from there a connection was made to Mary and the circumstances of the birth of Christ. Hence the depiction of hares in churches, sometimes even in proximity to Mary.
Another theory relates the hare to the pagan goddess of fertility, Eoste. Her favorite animal was the hare and her main festival the spring equinox which coincides with Easter. Whichever way you look at it, the hare is a symbol of fertility, new life and renovation very much in keeping with the religious background of Easter and the resurrection of Christ.
Again, it was the German Protestants who refrained from eating eggs during Lent. The only way from preventing them to spoil was to boil them, so they would keep until the end of Lent. In celebration of the end of fast, the eggs were colored and consumed as a special treat.
Green eggs represent spring and renovation, red eggs, as preferred by the Orthodox Church, stand for the blood shed by Christ. Russian nobility took Easter eggs to a whole new level by exchanging golden eggs, often encrusted with jewels as gifts for Easter. You will all have heard about the famed and nearly priceless Faberge Eggs. They were made between 1885 and 1917 and about 40 have survived.
Today’s chocolate eggs come a lot cheaper!
A curiosity: the world’s biggest hand made Easter egg was created in Bariloche/Argentina in April 2015. 8000kg of chocolate went into the 8.5m high egg which was then cracked and the portions shared out among the citizens.
Again, the Germans are responsible for bringing the tradition to the US. In the early 18th century, Protestant German immigrants in the Pennsylvania Dutch area, told their kids about the ‘Osterhase’. They went on to make nests, so the hare could deposit its eggs and they refined things by inventing the Easter egg hunt.
To all my readers, Happy Easter! Just don’t overdo it with the chocolate. Chocolate is, as we all know, good for you, but….only in moderation.
Attention: The video is embedded in the link above. Watch the fun!