YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Millions of Christians and non-Christians celebrate Easter every year, but did you ever wonder how Easter got its name or how the Easter Bunny got involved?
According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the word Easter comes from Old English, meaning the East. The sun rises in the east bringing warmth and hope, a symbol of the rising Christ for Christians.
According to Encyclopedia Britannica, the origin of the word is of “uncertain origin.” One view is that is derived from Eostre, or Eostrae, the Agnlo-Saxon goddess of spring and fertility.
The date of Easter is also not pinned down, initially. Eastern and Western positions were different until everyone settled on Easter being observed on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox (March 21). Easter, therefore, can fall on any Sunday between March 22 and April 25.
Now about the Easter Bunny. According to the Smithsonian, the hare had some religious significance, and they were even buried alongside humans, representing a rebirth. Julius Caesar said that hares were not to be eaten due to their religious significance.
Then there is the Greek tradition of hares being sacred to Aphrodite, the goddess of love and her son Eros was often depicted carrying a hare as a symbol of desire. You can find rabbits and hares in countless paintings of both religion and Greek mythology.
Hares often appeared as symbols of fertility. But as they hopped through time and meant many things to many cultures, the hare became the symbol of spring, rebirth and starting fresh and new.
Many agree that it was Germany that linked the hare with Easter and brought that tradition to America in the 1700s. They had an egg-laying hare called Osterhase or Oschter Haws. Over time, the tradition expanded to include chocolate and other candies, making the holiday second only to Halloween for candy sales.