What Is the History of the Easter Bunny?

history-easter-bunny Credit: Noel Hendrickson/Digital Vision/Getty Images

The history of the Easter bunny begins with Norse mythology and the goddess Eastre. Eastre is associated with fertility and spring celebration, which Christian missionaries altered into religious traditions spread to the United States by German immigrants.

According to legend, Eastre is responsible for the transition between winter and spring. One year she ushered in spring late. As a result, a bird's wings were permanently damaged by the cold. To atone for her mistake, Eastre transformed the bird into a hare that lays eggs on one day of the year: Easter. Missionaries altered this pagan tradition to align with Christianity. Both the rabbit and the spring became associated as symbols of new life and renewal.

The first recorded mention of the Easter bunny dates back to the 1500s in German writings. German immigrants settling in Pennsylvania in the 1700s carried the Easter bunny tradition from Europe to the American colonies. The children of these immigrants built nests for the Easter bunny who would visit and lay colored eggs. The egg-laying rabbit eventually started bringing gifts and candy in addition to the eggs. The first edible Easter bunny confection was made in the 1800s. The eggs and candy brought by the Easter bunny are now a major commercial aspect of the holiday.