A chocolate Easter bunny is a fun gift that will be sure to bring a smile of seasonal joy to the face of whoever receives one, but have you ever thought of why choccy bunnies are a particularly popular way of celebrating at Easter? They're actually a fusion of two aspects of this special time of year.
One important tradition that preceeds Easter is a period of Lent. This is traditionaly a period of 40 days of fasting, reflecting the forty days and forty nights that Jesus spent in the desert wilderness before he began his ministry. During this time Jesus fasted and resisted temptation from the Devil, including the Devil's suggestions to turn stones into bread to assuage his hunger.
To commemmorate this, may Christians today do something during the Lenten period in preparation for Easter. This often involves the giving-up of something as a form of abstinence. Lent starts on Ash Wednesday, 6 weeks before Easter. In actual fact, Ash Wednesday is 46 days before Easter, but the 40 days of abstinence does not include Sundays. The Lenten period is believed to be a time of spiritual grown and conversion, attained through self-denial and simplicity.
It wouldn't be much of an abstinence if you gave up something that you didn't like much, so one of the most popular ways of observing Lent is to give up particularly nice treats. One thing that springs to mind is chocolate and this indeed is one particular goodie that many people choose to give up during lent.
According to a 2012 survey by Church House Publishing, 27 percent of woment and 20% of men are likely to do something during lent. From those, 17% will try to give up chocolate or some other particular treats.
As Easter occurs at the end of Lent, it is a time to let yourself indulge a little in those little luxuries that you may have abstained from during Lent. Seeing as chocolate is one of those popular luxury items, this is where the aspect of chocolate in Easter bunnies comes from.
But that's only half of the story. What about the bunnies themselves? Well, even before the time of Jesus Chirst, Pagan peoples celebrated a Spring festival where the main character of honour was a goddess called Eostre who was a goddess of the moon and fertility. Eotre's favourite animal was the hare or rabbit, a creature who itself is a symbol of fertility. After all, the well-know phrase to "breed like rabbits" has good grounds for its accuracy - bunnies can become pregnant with a second litter even whilst a first litter is still growing in the womb!
When Christians came to the pagan lands, they brought with them the celebration of the Paschal season, also known as the Passover which is the period of 50 days from Easter until Pentecost. According to the Venerable Bede, an English scholar and writer of the 8th Century, the Christians adopted the name of Eostre for their newly-introduced rite. The word Eostre later morphed into Easter. As well as the name, some of the ancient traditions and symbols remained, and Eostre's favourite animal, the bunny, became an inherent part of the Easter celebration.
So there we have it. Combine Eostre's rabbit with the end of abstinence from goodies like chocolates and voila, the chocolate bunny is born!