What Does the Easter Bunny Have To Do With Easter?

Easter Sunday is a religious holiday to some and a family holiday for others, but how did the bunny get involved?

There's no story in the Bible about a long-eared, cotton-tailed creature known as the Easter Bunny. Neither is there a passage about young children painting eggs or hunting for baskets overflowing with scrumptious Easter goodies.

And real rabbits certainly don't lay eggs.

Why are these traditions so ingrained in Easter Sunday? And what do they have to do with the resurrection of Jesus? Well, to be frank, nothing.

Bunnies, eggs, Easter gifts and fluffy, yellow chicks in gardening hats likely stem from pagan roots. These tropes were incorporated into the celebration of Easter separately from the Christian tradition of honoring the day Jesus Christ rose from the dead.

According to the University of Florida's Center for Children's Literature and Culture, the origin of the celebration - and the origin of the Easter Bunny - can be traced back to 13th-century, pre-Christian Germany, when people worshiped several gods and goddesses.

The Teutonic deity Eostra was the goddess of spring and fertility, and feasts were held in her honor on the Vernal Equinox. Her symbol was the rabbit because of the animal's high reproduction rate.

Spring also symbolized new life and rebirth; eggs were an ancient symbol of fertility. According to History.com, Easter eggs represent Jesus' resurrection. 

The first Easter Bunny legend was documented in the 1500s. Around 1680, the first story about a rabbit laying eggs and hiding them in a garden was published. These legends were brought to the United States in the 1700s, when German immigrants settled in Pennsylvania Dutch country, according to the Center for Children's Literature and Culture.

The tradition of making nests for the rabbit to lay its eggs in soon followed. Eventually, nests became decorated baskets and colorful eggs were swapped for candy, treats and other small gifts.

So, while you're scarfing down chocolate bunnies (I hear chocolate is good for you!) and marshmallow chicks this Easter Sunday, think fondly of this holiday's origins and maybe even impress your friends at your local Easter egg hunt.

A Basketful of Bunny Facts

We're focusing on smaller rabbits today, but larger species can top out at some 20 inches long and weigh about 4 pounds.

Biggest-Ever Bunny Didn't Hop, Had No Enemies

Rabbits don't eat meat but they find plenty of other things to munch upon -- various grasses, lettuce, leafy weeds, and other plants.

Rabbits are generally fleet of foot, because they have to be. Eastern Cottontail Rabbits will run in a zigzag fashion -- at up to 18 miles per hour -- when trying to evade a predator.

Rabbits were originally classified as rodents, but in 1912 their dignity was restored when they joined the "lagomorphs" order, which doesn't sound like a cool name either but is still a hair (or hare) better than rodent.

A rabbit's ears can be more than 4 inches long.

Rabbit litters range from about 4 to 12 babies. Depending on the breed rabbits can start breeding anywhere between 4 to 7 months of age.

Rare & Secretive Striped Rabbit Caught on Camera

Rabbits will sometimes eat their own excrement, just in case they did not get all of the nutrients the first time around. Hey, a bunny's got to do what a bunny's got to do.

It's not all fun and Easter eggs for most rabbits in the wild. As a prey animal, they have to be on constant lookout. For this reason, they have eyes that are well placed so that they can see almost 360 degrees around them, and they're keen observers of threats from overhead.