Besides Santa Claus, the Easter bunny is perhaps the most famous of fictional holiday characters. Many of us believed in him until we reached kindergarten . . . some of us a few years longer (sure, I'll own up to it!). But besides being the bearer of Easter treats, what do you really know about this rascally rodent? We've rounded up some fun facts about Easter's cutest representative and some adorable photos that will make you want to believe all over again!
Thanks to their prolific fertility, rabbits have long symbolized Spring, a season of rebirth.
Pre-Christian pagans worshipped Eostre, the goddess of Spring, whose symbol was a hare.
When Pope Gregory I merged the Easter holiday (a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ) with pagan traditions, Christians maintained certain symbols: eggs — another representation of fertility — and rabbits.
The earliest mentions of the Easter bunny appear in German writings in the 16th century, and it was the Germans who most likely imported the tale to the US in the 1700s.
Germans who settled in the Pennsylvania Dutch area told tales of the "Osterhas," which refers to a hare, not a rabbit.
As with the stories of Santa Claus, children were told that if they were good, the Osterhas would lay a nest of colorful eggs for them.
The children would build a nest from their hats in a secluded area in hopes of a visit from the Osterhas.
By the 1800s, the Osterhas had transformed into the adorable Easter Bunny, who would leave colorful eggs, chocolates, and other treats in an elaborately decorated nest that children would set out the night before.
Today, the nests have become ornate baskets, and children hunt for their treats, which are hidden by the elusive Easter bunny!