31 Mar 2013

THE EASTER BUNNY HISTORY AND THE BELLS OF ROME

When I was a little girl and lived with my grandparents in the country side, many farmers had rabbits. When Easter approached I watched the rabbits in their cages and hoped to see when they would lay eggs.

Unfortunately that never happened and my grandma told me that they would do this probably during night. Still I was very happy when on Easter morning my grandpa told me that the Easter bunny  had come and I should look in the garden. My grandma gave me a basket and off  I went to search for eggs, which on this special occasion weren't white or light brown, but were in all colors ! blue, red, green, yellow what fun ! There were also little Easter bunnies in chocolate.

When I moved with my parents to Belgium, there were no Easter bunnies at all. Here the bells of Rome brought eggs and chocolate eggs and fluffy chicks. Meanwhile I didn't believe anymore that a bunny could lay eggs not even on Easter, but how to explain to a kid that a bell lays eggs ?? I quickly learned that the bells don't lay eggs but they bring the eggs.

In Belgium and France the predominant religion is Roman-Catholic (90%). No city, village or town is without a church. Many of them date back to the twelfth century or before. Most churches have a bell,  On the Thursday before Good Friday, all church bells in France are silenced in acknowledgement of Jesus' death. In fun, children are told that the bells have flown to Rome to see the Pope. Easter morning, the bells ring out once again in celebration of the Resurrection, declaring that Jesus is alive again. In some villages, people kiss and embrace one another when they hear the bells ring.

Easter morning is a happy time for children who wake to look for colorfully decorated Easter eggs (les oeufs de Pâques) hidden in their gardens, homes and playgrounds. Parents tell their children the eggs were brought from Rome (where the bells had gone), and that when the bells returned they brought the eggs with them. (I never saw a flying bell btw !)

Back to the Easter Bunny ! There's no story in the Bible about a long-eared, cotton-tailed creature known as the Easter Bunny. Neither is there a passage about young children painting eggs or hunting for baskets overflowing with scrumptious Easter goodies.

The Easter bunny has its origin in pre-Christian fertility lore. The Hare and the Rabbit were the most fertile animals known and they served as symbols of the new life during the Spring season.

The bunny as an Easter symbol has it's origins in Germany, where it was first mentioned in German writings in the 1500s. The first edible Easter bunnies were made in Germany during the early 1800s. These were made of pastry and sugar.

The tradition of making nests for the rabbit to lay its eggs is soon followed. Eventually, nests became decorated baskets and colorful eggs were swapped for candy, treats and other small gifts.

Today the Easter Bunny has settled in everywhere even in France and Belgium, although the Roman Bell story still remains. Poor kids, who finally brings the Easter eggs ? The Easter Bunny or the Roman Bell ? 


7 comments:

diane b said...

I'm not religious but I thought Jesus died on Good Friday and he rose again on Easter Sunday. I could be wrong. Many years ago I did a radio programme on Easter around the world and I was interested to find out in my research that when Christians were trying to convert the pagans they tried to incorporate the pagan celebrations into Christian celebrations and that is where the celebration of new life, new growth, eggs and bunnies etc came to become part of the Christian celebrations Which becomes a bit confusing in the southern hemisphere where we don't have Spring and new life at Easter. In Australia rabbits are imported pests and they ruin the farmland as they have very few predators here so ecologists advocate we don't tell kids that bunnies bring the eggs but our native little Bilby brings the eggs. A Bilby is a cute little marsupial with big pink ears and a long tail. It is endangered. So the confusion reigns bunnies , bells or bilbies. Just as well kids are gullible.

Andrew said...

I think I just learnt more about easter than I ever knew. In reference to Diane, my partner bought me a bilby easter egg.

Mara said...

We never had either in the Netherlands. We only ate lots and lots of eggs on Easter Sunday. Before going to church!

Kay L. Davies said...

What a very educational post, Gattina, with help from Diane in Australia.
Bunnies, bells, and bilbies. I had to look up "bilby" to see what they look like.
Very interesting.
I hope you have had a lovely Easter Sunday, Gattina.
K

Fun60 said...

Lent which precedes Easter required giving up something you enjoyed which was usually sweets. It was rare that I lasted the 40 days of lent without eating sweets but it was great to stuff your face with chocolate on Easter Sunday.

Cezar and Léia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cezar and Léia said...

Belgium does have a special twist with traditions, no?
This story about Easter eggs being associated with bells of Rome...
Santa Claus working with Zwarte Piet and coming by boat from Spain...
How do they come up with this? :)
God bless you!
Cezar