To get a true understanding of how a cute fluffy rabbit became one of the most popular symbols of Easter, you have to look into the pagan roots of this holiday. The name Easter evolved from the Goddess’s name, Ostara, the Germanic goddess of dawn. Her name means towards the East.
Ostara is honored in the month of April with festivals celebrating re-birth and renewal. Easter, like most Pagan festivals evolved into a Christian holiday focusing, not on the Goddess, but on the Biblical Jesus and his resurrection. Even so, Easter kept the symbols and many of the rituals of the Pagan festival. The Easter Bunny is one of them.
Legend has it that many years ago, a young girl was gathering wood for her family’s fireplace as spring had not quite arrived and snow was still on the ground. As she ventured further into the overgrowth, she heard a slight rustling under some dead leaves. Being a very curious child, she investigated more thoroughly and found a little, half frozen bird.
The girl loved all nature, especially birds for the beautiful songs they sang in the warmer months. She wanted to do everything she could to help this poor little bird that was freezing to death. So, she took off her shawl and wrapped the little bird up inside to get warm. After some time, she melted some snow in her hand to give the little bird a drink. The little bird, although not dead, wasn’t moving at all and looked to be getting worse instead of better. This was heartbreaking for the girl and she started to cry.
The Goddess Ostara was known for her love of children. When Ostara heard the cries of the girl who was trying so hard to save the bird, Ostara knew she had to find a way to help. Ostara found where the child was sitting in the woods and quickly went to see her. When the girl saw Ostara approaching, she quickly ran over to the Goddess with the bird in her hands. Ostara took the bird gently from the child. Ostara knew that this bird should have flown south for the winter, but for some reason was left behind. She also knew that if she saved the bird today, it would surely freeze to death the next day, or starve before the warmer weather arrived.
The only way to save the bird was to change it into something that could survive the cold and find food. So, Ostara changed the bird into a rabbit. At first, the used to be bird, now rabbit, was confused because it couldn’t fly or sing. But it slowly found out that the new soft warm fur kept it feeling very warm in the snow. It enjoyed hopping joyfully around the Goddess and the girl.
A short time later, when the snow was melting and the world was beginning to wake from its winter slumber, the rabbit once again crossed paths with the girl. It was very happy in its new life as a rabbit and wanted to give a gift to the child for saving its life. It was still a bird on the inside; so it laid eggs, for the girl, Ostara, and the rest of the village. The eggs were brightly colored with speckles. For many years on Easter, the rabbit continued to lay eggs as gifts for all to find. Today, we color the eggs ourselves and lay them out in remembrance of new beginnings, just like the rabbit that used to be a bird had done.