Why the rabbit “lays” eggs on Easter Sunday

Each season of Lent, all Christians focus on commemorating the suffering and death of Jesus Christ, the ultimate sacrifice in all dimensions. As a Catholic, that’s how I see it.

A bunny and eggs represent new life and abundance. (Stock photo from iStock via Getty Images)

Easter Sunday marks the end of this season when Christians celebrate the resurrection of Christ from the dead, which also signifies the victory of the Lord over sin, the accomplished mission of Christ over the salvation of man from “spiritual death”.

I love the season of Lent because it means enjoying a week’s vacation. This means no classes or no work, a time to relax and unwind, to contemplate one’s life and participate in religious activities which I find enjoyable on some level.

I find the “Washing of the Feet” entertaining. The ritual of the “stations of the cross” makes me adventurous as we go from church to church with the aim of visiting 14 churches. The “Salubong” is, for me, the best. When I was a kid, I loved waking up at 3 or 4 in the morning, going to a certain place where our parish church was recreating how Mary Magdalene met Jesus right after his resurrection. It was so exciting for me every time. But, of course, after these activities throughout the week, there was more fun on Easter Sunday for the kids at home. One of them is the Easter egg hunt!

The tradition of the “egg hunt” is passed down from generation to generation in my family and even in my husband’s family. As long as there are small children in the family, there is an “egg hunt” every Easter Sunday. Children learn that the Easter Bunny has hidden his many treat eggs (egg-shaped plastic capsules containing chocolates and candies) in various places, either in the garden or inside the house. They would need to find each of them. As a child, the preoccupation was focused on getting the treats and not bothering to wonder what a bunny carrying eggs had to do with Jesus and the salvation of our souls.

Kids love counting the eggs they found, especially if they got the eggs which can be exchanged for a matching toy or amount. (Stock photo from iStock via Getty Images)

First of all, rabbits or does do not lay eggs. These animals are mammals. Therefore, they give birth to live offspring. Second, the so-called Easter Bunny has nothing to do with Jesus and his resurrection from the dead, nor with the whole mission of saving man from sin.

So where did this Easter bunny idea come from and when did it start? What do rabbits symbolize in the Bible?
Rabbits are barely mentioned in the Bible. But Leviticus 11:3-8 says, “You can eat any animal that has a cloven hoof, split in two, and chews the cud, but not an animal that chews the cud or has only a cloven hoof.” For example, the camel ruminates but does not have a cloven hoof, so it is unclean. The rock badger ruminates but does not have a cloven hoof and is therefore unclean. The rabbit ruminates but does not have a split hoof and is therefore unclean. The pig has a cloven hoof, split in two, but does not chew the cud and is therefore unclean. You cannot eat their meat or touch their carcasses; they are unclean for you. And, as Jessica Sager says in her article, What does the Easter bunny have to do with Easter? Easter Bunny Origins Explained: “Basically, the Bible says rabbits aren’t kosher and should be avoided!” Well, it seemed like rabbits weren’t meant to be eaten, after all, according to the Bible.

It turns out (based on my “Googling”) the idea for the Easter Bunny came from a pagan ritual that is observed around the first day of spring (the vernal equinox). This is a theory according to Time (What is the origin of the Easter bunny?, Alexandra Sifferlin, February 21, 2020). The pagan tradition is what they call the Festival d’Eostre. Eostre, for the pagans, is the goddess of fertility, whose animal symbol is the rabbit. Why rabbits? Rabbits or bunnies are known to be very energetic when it comes to breeding.

An Easter egg hunt is a tradition in Catholic countries, including the Philippines. The children search for colored eggs hidden by “rabbits” who are in fact parents or adults of the family. Eggs have chocolates or treats inside. (Stock photo from iStock via Getty Images)

“The Bible makes no mention of a long-eared, short-tailed creature delivering decorated eggs to good children on Easter Sunday; nevertheless, the Easter Bunny has become an important symbol of Christianity’s most important holiday. The exact origins of this mythical mammal are unclear, but rabbits, known to be prolific procreators, are an ancient symbol of fertility and new life,” explains history.com.

But what’s the deal with eggs, you might ask? As we established earlier, rabbits do not lay eggs. Time says: “Eggs are also representative of new life, and decorating eggs for Easter is thought to date back to the 13th century. Hundreds of years ago, churches had their congregations abstain from eggs during Lent, allowing them to be eaten again at Easter.”

History.com says: “According to some sources, the Easter Bunny first came to America in the 1700s with German immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania and carried their tradition of a laying hare called ‘Osterhase’ or “Oschter Haws”. Their children would make nests for this creature to lay its colorful eggs in. Eventually the custom spread to the United States and deliveries of the legendary Easter morning bunny expanded to include chocolate and other kinds of sweets and gifts, while decorated baskets replaced nests, and children often left carrots for the bunny in case he got hungry from all his jumping.

So this is it. Over time, these pagan practices merged with Christian rituals and were further improved by the new generations that followed, mainly for fun with our children. I see another saving grace in all of this – thank you, Jesus, for also saving rabbits from being sacrificed in pagan rituals to make people wish to get pregnant!

About the Author: Mariana Burgos is a freelance artist. She has been a single mother for 14 years now because she is the wife of a desaparacido. She and her daughter are animal lovers and are active in the defense of not only human rights, but also animal rights.

Alicia R. Rucker