Bird Watcher's General Store

Easter Bunny vs. Easter Bird - 04/13/01


Dear Bird Folks,

I've been wondering why the Easter Bunny brings eggs on Easter when rabbits don't lay eggs. Since there are eggs involved, shouldn't we be talking abut an Easter bird instead of a rabbit?

- R.M., Orleans

Yeah, R.M.,

You are so right, that bunny and egg thing is rather silly. I hear that it started a zillion years ago when people wanted a way to celebrate the coming of spring. Farmers held a festival hoping to have a fertile and productive growing season. If fertile and productive were what they were looking for, they couldn't have made a better choice for a logo than a rabbit. Rabbits are considered by some scientists to be the first Xerox machines. And the egg, being the first stage of life, is the symbol of a new beginning and rebirth, much like spring itself.

But what's the deal with a rabbit hiding colored eggs? My theory is a group of farmers, who were swapping stories, got into some real serious corn squeezins one spring night and the egg-toting Easter bunny was born. But since I wasn't sure, I went to the only faithful source of truth in the world, The Internet. My research told me that my theory wasn't even close to being right and that the idea of a big bunny bringing fancy eggs on Easter had its beginnings in far away Australia.

Hundreds of years ago Australian parents would give their children a special treat on Easter to celebrate the end of Lent and the beginning of the "vegemite" growing season. Parents would collect colorful bird eggs from the bush and surprise their children with them on Easter morning. The children loved the eggs and would bring the most colorful eggs to school the next day to show off to their friends. The custom went on for many years, but eventually the eggs and the birds that laid them became harder to find. Soon, only the rich families who could hire professional egg finders could have colorful eggs on Easter.

Just when it looked like the tradition would die out, word spread of a different custom that was followed in the outback. The folks in the outback never used eggs because there weren't any to use. Instead they would gather macadameia nuts, a common Australian nut, and color them with a dye made from roots and beetle wings. On Easter Eve, parents would hide these colored nuts in the pouches of kangaroos. The next morning the children would wake up early and go running through the countryside trying to find out which kangaroo had the colored nuts in their pouches. Australian kids must be tough because they not only had to outrun the kangaroos, but they had to somehow avoid being bitten by the joey (a young kangaroo) still living in the pouch.

The new Easter activity caught on quickly in the rest of Australia and soon spread to America. In America, however, the macadameia nuts are too expensive so they were replaced with chicken eggs. And the chasing of the kangaroo was replaced with a visit from a fluffy bunny. We say the rabbit was chosen because it is our most common animal that hops like a kangaroo. The Aussies, on the other hand, claim we chose the bunny because we are too wimpy to chase down a wild kangaroo. But chasing down a wild kangaroo is nothing compared to trying to get out of one of our church parking lots at the end of a service on Easter morning. Let's see the Aussies survive that!

There you have it, R.M. The history of the Easter Bunny bringing us colored eggs comes from the Land Down Under. Who knew? I'm just as surprised as you are, but it must be true because I read it on the Internet and the Internet never lies. Unless The Internet folks got hold of some serious corn squeezins, then who knows?



Artwork by Catherine Clark


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