Easter, Eggs and the Easter Bunny
German Spring Festival
The Easter Bunny was the central figure in spring festivals for the Germanic people and still is very important to Easter today. The desire for winter to end – victory over the cold, dark nights, and spring to begin – was strong. Easter bonfires were lit to symbolize the elimination of winter, the beginning of new life through spring.
Originally a sign of fertility for pagans, Christians adopted the egg as a symbol of new life. Eggs were traditionally eliminated during the Lenten Fast. On Easter Sunday, eggs (which were originally all coloured red to symbolize the Paschal Lamb) were eaten as a sign that the Lenten Fast was over and the celebration of the Resurrection had begun.
But how did the Easter bunny become affiliated
Many explanations and stories exist. In 1678, the Easter bunny was mentioned the first time in Germany. The actual custom, however, is not older than about a hundred years. A mayor theory is that rabbits became famous, because their babies are the first to be born during the New Year thus connecting the time of year to the Easter Season.
Special for Bavaria is the blessing of the Osterspeise (special Easter meal). Red, dyed eggs, smoked baked ham, salt, Schwarzbrot (dark bread) and Osterbrot (yeast bread) will be blessed during the Holy Mass on Easter Sunday. This signifies the completion of the 40-days Lenten Fast and keep away misfortune. Very traditional are also the well decorated “Osterbrunnnen” or “Easter Wells” in Franconia and the Upper Palatine.
Most of the “Osterbrunnen” are decorated from Saturday before Easter until Sunday after Easter ("Weißer Sonntag"). (Authors: W. Lobenhofer, Dr. K. Zeitler, C. Zeilmann)