Dear Mr Postman .. thank you for visiting today .. I see your letter is about the Easter Bunny - my mother and I were talking and saying that as a family we had not come across this tradition, so it will be interesting to hear all about Easter Rabbits - or hares? Do you know about them?
At the start of the Middle Ages in the latter part of the 6th century (late 500s AD) Pope Gregory the Great ordered his missionaries to merge the Christian festivals with the Pagan festivals, where possible - while at the same time many of the traditions were adopted into the Christian festivities. The pre-christian Saxons had a goddess Eostre who was linked with the spring hare as her animal - see my post on the origins of Easter.
The combination of hares and eggs is almost certainly due to folklore confusion of the hares raising their young in small hollowed out 'forms' on the ground (whereas rabbits have burrows) and the plover birds' nests on the land nearby. So in Spring, eggs would be found in what looked like hare forms, giving rise to the belief that the hare laid eggs in the spring!
The tapestry of customs and traditions weaving themselves into history across the different cultures seem to be so obvious here. The hare became the Easter Bunny and as an Easter symbol seems to have its origins in Alsace and southwestern Germany, where it was first mentioned in German writings in the 1600s.
The Easter Bunny was introduced to America by the the German settlers who arrived in the Pennsylvania Dutch country during the 1700s .. and it became traditional for the Easter Bunny to bring baskets of coloured eggs, candy and toys for the children.
Chocolate arrived from South and Central America in the 1500s, with the first chocolate house opening in London in 1657 - as chocolate was only served as a drink until the industrial revolution occurred and machinery suitable to producing chocolate bars was invented. As technologies improved during the 1800s - chocolatiers started experimenting to produce the treats we have today, as I mentioned in my previous post on Mozart, Marzipan and Battenberg.
We now have all sorts of Easter-themed chocolate shapes - including Easter Bunnies.
Thank you Mr Postman .. it's good to learn about one or two things at a time .. and you're telling me tomorrow's letter will be about Easter Eggs .. that will be interesting ..