As with many of our religious holidays, there is a pagan connection. The ancient Saxons celebrated the return of spring with an uproarious festival commemorating their goddess of offspring and of springtime, Eastre or Eostre. When the second-century Christian missionaries encountered the tribes of the north with their pagan celebrations, they attempted to convert them to Christianity.
The consort of Eastre was none other than a hare, that great animal symbol of fertility. According to some traditions, Eastre cast the hare into the Heavens, creating the constellation we know today as Lepus the Hare. Some stories also say that Eastre gave Lepus the ability to lay eggs once a year, eggs also being an ancient symbol of fertility.
The Easter Bunny has been around since the 1500's in the writings of the Germans. The first edible Easter bunny was made out of pastry and sugar in the early 1800's, and the bunny was said to lay colorful eggs in the nests that children made out of bonnets.
Germans who traveled to the Pennsylvania Dutch country brought the German Easter Bunny traditions with them to America in the 1700's. Slowly the hats that the children piled into hidden nests for the bunnies turned into baskets. These baskets are still hidden around the house and are now used to collect the colored eggs of children as they go on their Easter egg hunts.
So, as spring returns, I leave you with some lines from e.e. cummings...
"sweet spring is your
time is my time is our
time for springtime is lovetime
and viva sweet love"