10 Things You May Not Know About the Easter Bunny

iStock.com/kzenon
iStock.com/kzenon

Whether you attend a church service, decorate eggs, or devour Peeps, no Easter celebration is complete without a visit from the Easter Bunny. Check out these 10 things you may not know about the Easter Bunny, from its contested origins to its surprising iterations around the world.

1. It may have come from a pagan goddess of fertility—with some help from a Brother Grimm ...

"Ostara" (1901) by Johannes Gehrts.
Eduard Ade, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

While we don’t know its exact origins, some believe the Easter Bunny has its roots in Anglo-Saxon paganism. According to Bede, a prolific 8th-century English monk, the Anglo-Saxon month Eosturmonath (broadly the Easter season) "was once called after a goddess of theirs named Eostre, in whose honor feasts were celebrated in that month. Now they designate that Paschal season by her name, calling the joys of the new rite by the time-honored name of the old observance." Whether Eostre was real or an invention by Bede has long been controversial, but scholarship on the goddess didn't really pick up for over a thousand years.

In his 1835 book Deutsche Mythologie, Jacob Grimm (of the Brothers Grimm) speculated that Eostre was connected to a German goddess named Ostara (whose existence, again, is controversial). Almost 40 years later, Adolf Holtzmann wrote that "The Easter Hare is unintelligible to me, but probably the hare was the sacred animal of Ostara," and a contemporary named K. A. Oberle hypothesized that "the hare which lay the parti-coloured Easter eggs was sacred to [Ostara]."

Over the years, other writers repeated these speculations as fact, and the idea that a hare was one of Eostre's sacred animals spread. Although hares and rabbits are different species, they're often conflated because the animals look alike and are both associated with fertility.

2. … Or it may come from a myth about that goddess's bird.

baby chick and bunny cuddling in a field
iStock.com/UroshPetrovic

Other scholars, however, think the Easter Bunny originated from an Anglo-Saxon myth about Eostre. According to the myth, the goddess was entertaining a group of kids one day. To make them laugh, she transformed her pet bird into a rabbit, giving it the ability to lay colored eggs. Eostre then gave the eggs to the children. A similar myth portrays a more malevolent Eostre, who turned her pet bird into a rabbit or hare because she was enraged. But other historians, noting the lack of any information outside of Bede regarding Eostre or Ostara, have speculated that these stories are possibly corruptions of Ukrainian folktales that explained that country's practice of making pysanky—essentially highly decorated eggs. An alternate hypothesis is that Oberle (or perhaps Holtzmann) made the decision that because the rabbit lays eggs it must have at some point transformed from a bird, making this story an entirely late-19th century invention.

3. The Pennsylvania Dutch introduced the Oschter Haws to the U.S.

A nest of colorful Easter eggs
iStock.com/tortoon

In the late 17th century, groups of Christian German immigrants began settling in Pennsylvania. They taught their children about the Oschter Haws (or Osterhase), a hare from German folklore that gave colorful eggs to well-behaved children on Easter. To prepare for the Oschter Haws's arrival, German and German-American kids built a small nest or basket for the hare's eggs. Over time, the Oschter Haws character gained popularity and was Americanized, morphing into the Easter Bunny.

4. It's not in the Bible, but it might be associated with the Virgin Mary.

"The Madonna of the Rabbit," by Titian, circa 1530.
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Like Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny is a secular symbol of a Christian holiday. Although the Easter Bunny doesn't appear in the Bible, some religious scholars argue that it was originally associated with the Virgin Mary, rather than the pagan goddess Eostre. Because rabbits and hares were so fertile, Ancient Greeks and early medieval Christians thought that the animals could reproduce without having sex. Consequently, artwork and manuscripts often depict the Virgin Mary with rabbit iconography, alluding to the view that both the Virgin Mary and rabbits were able to have virgin births.

5. In Australia, it's the Easter Bilby …

A chocolate Easter Bilby
iStock.com/Bastetamn

Rather than celebrate Easter with bunnies, Australians are increasingly ushering in autumn (which is when Easter falls in the southern hemisphere) with the Easter Bilby. Also called rabbit-bandicoots, bilbies are Australian marsupials with long, rabbit-like ears. Things began looking grim for bilbies two centuries ago, when new predators and diseases were introduced into their habitat. Then, European rabbits—an invasive species whose population really took off when a few were released more than 150 years ago so they could be hunted—drove them out of their natural habitat until only a few thousand of the animals remained. But in the 1980s and '90s, Australians began doing more to protect the bilby. A book called Billy The Aussie Easter Bilby popularized the concept of the Easter Bilby, and the establishment of the Foundation for Rabbit-Free Australia educated Australians about the ecological harm that rabbits wreak. Today, you can find chocolate bilbies in Australia around Easter time, and some chocolate companies even donate a portion of their proceeds to organizations that save the animals.

6. … And in other countries, you'll find The Easter Bell, Easter Witches, and Easter Cuckoo.

Two women feed candy to fish while dressed as Easter witches at the Aquaria Vattenmuseum in Stockholm, Sweden in 2016.
Two women feed candy to fish while dressed as Easter witches at the Aquaria Vattenmuseum in Stockholm, Sweden in 2016.
JESSICA GOW, TT/AFP/Getty Images

While the Easter Bilby might sound strange to anyone unfamiliar with it, other countries have their own, even weirder versions of the Easter Bunny. In most of France, children believe that flying church bells travel to the Vatican and bring back chocolate treats in time for Easter Sunday. In Sweden, kids dress up as wizards and witches rather than bunnies. And in Switzerland, the Easter Cuckoo (bird) is a symbol of the spring holiday.

7. A sensory-friendly Easter Bunny caters to kids with autism.

Easter Bunny greets a small child
iStock.com/MCCAIG

A sensory-friendly Caring Bunny greeted and posed for photos with children with autism and special needs on World Autism Awareness Day in 2017. Sponsored by Autism Speaks, the event took place in malls across the U.S., dimming the lights, lowering the music, and shutting down noisy escalators and fountains to accommodate kids who are unable to deal with the visual and auditory stimulation of a normal mall. It's now an annual tradition at some malls.

8. Famous people love donning Easter Bunny costumes.

The Easter Bunny drops eggs on the field in between innings of a Cincinnati Reds game.
The Easter Bunny drops eggs on the field in between innings of a Cincinnati Reds game.
Joe Robbins, Getty Images

While most people enjoy dressing up for Halloween, celebrities can't seem to get enough of donning a big rabbit suit on Easter. Singers, actors, and sports stars such as Mariah Carey, Madonna, David Beckham, Miley Cyrus, Snoop Dogg, and Kanye West have all shared photos of themselves wearing Easter Bunny costumes, which range from a simple set of bunny ears to a full-body white, fluffy suit.

9. Former U.S. Press Secretary Sean Spicer was once the White House Easter Bunny.

Then-White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer reads a book to children during the White House's annual Easter Egg Roll in 2017.
Then-White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer reads a book to children during the White House's annual Easter Egg Roll in 2017.
Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images

The White House's annual Easter Egg Roll, which began in 1878, draws children and families to the President's home for egg hunting and musical performances. Traditionally, a member of the president's administration dresses up as the Easter Bunny to entertain kids and their families. When George W. Bush was president, then-assistant U.S. trade representative for media and public affairs Sean Spicer wore the bunny costume. In March 2016, Spicer poked fun at his old role, retweeting a photo of himself with the comment: "The good ole days—what I would give to hide in a bunny costume again."

10. Chocolate bunnies are insanely popular.

A chocolate bunny
Joe Raedle, Getty Images

Halloween and Easter are the two big holidays for candy sales, with Easter sometimes coming out on top (at least in dollar sales). This year, Americans are expected to spend $18.1 billion on the holiday, and 87 percent of celebrants planned to buy Easter candy like chocolate bunnies, marshmallow bunnies and eggs, and jelly beans. About 90 million chocolate bunnies are produced every Easter, which makes for a ton of mouthwatering chocolate rabbits in kids' (and adults') Easter baskets.

A version of this story originally ran in 2017.

8 Great Gifts for People Who Work From Home

A growing share of Americans work from home, and while that might seem blissful to those trapped in long commutes, it's not always easy to live, eat, and work in the same space. Here are some useful tools and sweet surprises to help make a telecommuter's life a little easier.

1. Folding Book Stand; $7

A foldable metal book stand holding paper
Hatisan / Amazon

Useful for anyone who works with books or documents, this thick wire frame is strong enough for heavier textbooks or tablets. Best of all, it folds down flat, so you can slip it into your backpack or laptop case and take it out at the library or wherever you need it. The stand does double-duty in the kitchen as a cookbook holder, too.

Buy It: Amazon

2. Duraflame Electric Fireplace; $210

Duraflame electric fireplace
Duraflame / Amazon

Nothing says cozy like a fireplace, but not everyone is so blessed—or has the energy to keep a fire going during the work day. This Duraflame electric fireplace can help keep a workspace warm by providing up to 1000 square feet of comfortable heat, and has adjustable brightness and speed settings. You can even operate it without heat if you just crave the ambiance of an old-school gentleman's study (leather-top desk and shelves full of arcane books cost extra).

Buy It: Amazon

3. Sips By Subscription Tea Service; $15/month

Assorted teas and Sipsby tea subscription service packaging
Sips By

A steady stream of hot beverages is key to productivity, and Sips by is a lovely way to keep the tea chest replenished. (Plus, who doesn't love getting presents in the mail each month?) Your giftee can fill out a personalized tea profile, and each month selections of four different kinds of premium tea will arrive. Each batch makes enough for 15-plus cups, and there are cute reusable bags provided for the loose-leaf teas, which also makes them portable for on-the-go days.

Buy It: Sips by

4. Solstice Beeswax Aromatherapy Candles; $35

Solstice Naturals Lavender 100% Pure Beeswax Aromatherapy Candle
Solstice / Amazon

People who work at home all day, especially in a smaller space, often struggle to "turn off" at the end of the day. One way to unwind and signal that work is done is to light a candle. Burning beeswax candles helps clean the air, and essential oils are a better health bet than artificial fragrances. Lavender is especially relaxing. (Just use caution around essential-oil-scented products and pets.)

Buy It: Amazon

5. HÄNS Swipe-Clean; $15

HÄNS Swipe being used on a tablet
HÄNS / Amazon

If you're carting your laptop and phone from the coffee shop to meetings to the co-working space, they're going to get gross—fast. HÄNS Swipe is a dual-sided device that cleans on one side and polishes on the other, and it's a great solution for keeping germs at bay, especially in cold and flu season. It's also nicely portable, since there's nothing to spill. Plus, it's refillable, and the polishing cloth is washable and re-wrappable, making it a much more sustainable solution than individually wrapped wipes.

Buy It: Amazon

6. Laptop Side Table; $100

Oversized Wood and Metal Laptop Table
World Market

Sometimes you don't want to be stuck at a desk all day long. This industrial-chic side table can act as a laptop table, too, with room for your computer, coffee, notes, and more. It also works as a TV table—not that you (or your giftee) would ever watch TV during work hours.

Buy It: World Market

7. Moleskine Classic Notebook; $12

Moleskine Classic Notebook in black
Moleskin / Amazon

Plenty of people who work from home (well, plenty of people in general) find paper journals and planners essential, whether they're used for bullet journaling, time-blocking, or just writing good old-fashioned to-do lists. However you (or your intended recipient) organize their life, there's a journal out there that's perfect, but for starters it's hard to top a good Moleskin. These are available dotted (the bullet journal fave), plain, ruled, or squared, and in a variety of colors. (You can find other supply ideas for bullet journaling here.)

Buy It: Amazon

8. Nexstand Laptop Stand; $34

Nextstand Portable Laptop Stand
Nexstand / Amazon

For the person who works from home and is on the taller side, this portable laptop stand is a back-saver. It folds down flat so it can be tossed into the bag and taken to the coffee shop or co-working spot, where it often generates an admiring comment or three. It works best alongside a portable external keyboard and mouse.

Buy It: Amazon

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don't return, so we're only happy if you're happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

9 Towns Around the World With Christmas-Themed Names

Marseas/iStock via Getty Images
Marseas/iStock via Getty Images

In some towns, Christmas is all year-round. From Santa Claus, Indiana, to Bethlehem, Wales, here are nine places where it's December 25 365 days a year.

1. Santa Claus, Indiana

A statue of Santa Claus stands above a ‘Welcome to Santa Claus, Indiana’ sign.
TENGRRL, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

There are actually several places in the U.S. named after St. Nick, but only one of them is famous for the Santa Claus postmark. That’s Santa Claus, Indiana, a city of just under 2500 people located in the southwest portion of the state. When settlers created the town in the mid-1800s, they were going to name it Santa Fe—but since another Indiana town already had that name, when the residents gathered one Christmas Eve to decide upon its permanent moniker, they went with the seasonally appropriate Santa Claus. Now, the city calls itself “America’s Christmas Hometown” and boasts Yuletide attractions like the Santa Claus Museum and Village, a hotel called Santa’s Lodge, the Santa Claus Christmas Store, and Santa’s Candy Castle, which claims the title of the first themed attraction in the U.S. Not to mention all the letters to Santa its post office receives each December.

2. Barra De Navidad, Mexico

A view from offshore of a beach in Barra de Navidad, Mexico.
stockcam/iStock via Getty Images

Barra de Navidad, Jalisco, a beach town on Mexico’s Pacific coast, is located along a sandbar—hence its name, which means Christmas Sandbar. The mellow town of about 5000 people was once a hub for Spanish ships. It was originally named Puerto de Navidad because the first Spanish explorers who landed there in the 1500s arrived on Christmas Day. The name was changed to Barra de Navidad once the town on the sandbar was built. Now, it's a fishing village and popular tourist destination whose picturesque beaches make it a perfect late-December getaway for those trying to flee cold weather.

3. Christmas, Michigan

A sign reads ‘Welcome to Christmas, Michigan.’
ehrlif/iStock via Getty Images

Christmas, Michigan, home to just 400 residents, was named for the holiday gift factory once located there. The town in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is now a popular recreation area for snowmobile aficionados, and it takes full advantage of its Christmas legacy. With roadside Santa statues and its Santa-themed stores and signs, Christmas will never let you forget which holiday it’s named after.

4. Natal, Brazil

A view across the skyline of Natal, Brazil
nicolasdecorte/iStock via Getty Images

Natal, which means "Christmas" in Portuguese, is a state capital on the easternmost tip of Brazil, and serves as South America’s closest point to Africa. Built just outside a 16th-century Portuguese fort called the Fortress of the Three Wise Men (also called the Three Kings Fortress), the city was founded on December 25, 1599. It has since become a popular beach destination for Brazilian tourists.

5. North Pole, Oklahoma

An evelope that reads 'North Pole' sticks out from a red mailbox.
crysrob/iStock via Getty Images

Of all the places to name after the North Pole, you wouldn’t necessarily pick a tiny town in southeastern Oklahoma. Residents of the rural region aren’t sure how an Oklahoma town got an Arctic name. According to NewsOK, the late owner of the local North Pole Grocery thought it might have to do with the area being colder than other parts of the county, while other residents speculate that it could have been named for its out-of-the-way location, which might seem as far away as the North Pole for travelers.

6. Sint-Niklaas, Belgium

Neogothic Tower of Cityhall in St-Niklaas Belgium
krisdisk/iStock via Getty Images

The East Flanders city of Sint-Niklaas gets its name from the church founded there in the early 13th century, not the jolly bearer of Christmas presents, but the town definitely knows how to appreciate Santa Claus—or rather, his predecessor, Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas). There’s a statue of the holiday figure posted outside the city hall year-round, and between November 12 and December 6 (Saint Nicholas’s Day), the city’s fine arts museum turns into the Huis van de Sint, or the “House of the Saint,” where kids can tour Sinterklaas’s house and meet the big guy himself. Sinterklaas comes to visit the children of Sint-Niklaas on the weekend prior to December 6, and local elementary schools get a three-day weekend so that kids can play with their new toys afterward.

7. Noel, Missouri

A vintage postcard shows a highway leading into the town of Noel, Missouri.
OZARK POSTCARD PUBLISHERS, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

The town of Noel wasn’t named after Christmas—the designation originally referred to local sawmill owners C.W. and W.J. Noel—but it has certainly embraced the association. In the 1930s, Noel’s post office began offering a Christmas postmark service, stamping cards and letters sent through the town with a Christmas-themed postmark that says “The Christmas City in the Ozark Vacation Land.” Each year, the post office receives thousands of pieces of mail from people all around the world asking for these stamps, and the local postmaster has to employ a team of volunteers to process them all in time for the holiday.

8. Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

This Pennsylvania town owes the origin of its name to Christmas Eve. In 1741, a group of Moravians—a Protestant denomination founded in the 1400s—settled near the banks of Pennsylvania’s Lehigh River. These settlers had a patron, the German count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf, and when he visited on Christmas Eve, 1741, he proclaimed that the town would be named Bethlehem. In 1937, Bethlehem’s chamber of commerce decided to make the most of the name, declaring it America’s Christmas City. It’s now known for its extensive annual Christmas market.

9. Bethlehem, Wales

A sign welcomes visitors to Bethlehem, Wales in both English and Welsh.

JOHN FINCH, Geograph // CC BY-SA 2.0

Pennsylvania isn’t the only place to lay claim to the Bethlehem name. Its Welsh compatriot, though, owes even more to the Christmas spirit. Bethlehem, Wales is a tiny village that boasted just 150 people in 2012. It’s so small, in fact, that in the 1980s, its only post office got shut down by budget cuts. But the high demand for the Bethlehem postmark forced it to reopen in 2002. Though it’s typically only open a few hours a week, in order to cope with the high volume of mail people send in during the Christmas season the post office has longer hours during the holidays.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER