Easter Bunny is an imaginary creature who, according to tradition, distributes, on the eve of Easter morning, a major celebration of Christianity, the colored or chocolate “Easter eggs”. This messenger is represented by a rabbit in the English-speaking regions, but it’s usually a hare who takes this mission in German-speaking regions (Osterhase in German).
Easter Bunny has no clearly defined characteristics. Sometimes white, sometimes brown, sometimes blue, he differs according to the imagination. This is also the case in the animated films. It is generally speaking, intelligent and can stand up.
The rabbit once symbolizing fertility and renewal (like spring), it was in Upper Germany where was born the tradition (Osterhase) before it spreads in the Germanic countries. Subsequently, this tradition is exported to the United States by German immigrants in the eighteenth century.
The origin of the rabbits come from a German legend in which a poor woman that can not offer treats to the children, decorated eggs that she hid in the garden. The children, seeing a rabbit, believed that it had laid eggs. Since then, the children fabricated a nest they put in the garden in the hope that the Easter Bunny fill it with eggs overnight.
According to The Catholic Encyclopedia (1913, Volume V, page 227), many pagan customs were connected to Easter. The egg is the symbol of germination occurs in spring, and the rabbit is a pagan symbol and has always represented fertility.
Another origin of the Easter Bunny comes from Saxony where they honored the spring goddess Éostre (Eastre), which has also given its name to Easter. The hare is the emblematic animal of the goddess, he remained associated with Easter. Similarly, in the Celtic and Scandinavian traditions, the hare was the symbol of the mother goddess.
The Easter Bunny theme is still largely taken the twenty-first century in the popular or childish iconography and on objects like cards, chocolates, figurines, stuffed animals, etc.
The Easter Bunny is sometimes replaced by other messengers:
The French tradition says that the Easter egg are brought by the Easter bells, back from Rome after the Holy Week. However, this tradition of Catholic inspiration, is increasingly a victim of globalization and is therefore replaced in recent years by the Anglo-Saxon rabbit. The reference to the rabbit also removes the tradition of the Easter egg from their religious context, thereby making it a secular holiday.
In Lorraine, Germany, particularly in the Nied, it is der Oschterhaas (Easter hare) that disperses eggs and candy in parks and gardens. And this is also in Alsace (Osterhas).
In Australia, to save the bilby – a small marsupial endangered – and fight against the proliferation of rabbits in their country, Australians are trying to change in recent years the legend: the Easter bunny is now replaced by the Easter Bilby, to educate children and provide funds for the protection of these small marsupials in danger of extinction.
Translated from Wikipedia