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 ?