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10 Things You May Not Know About the Easter Bunny

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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 costume popularity amongst celebrities … and press secretaries.

1. IT MAY HAVE COME FROM A PAGAN GODDESS OF FERTILITY—WITH SOME HELP FROM A BROTHER GRIMM ...

While we don’t know its exact origins, some believe the Easter Bunny has its roots in Anglo-Saxon paganism. According to Bede, 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.

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 a highly decorated egg. 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.

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.

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 ...

The greater bilby. Image credit: Dcoetzee, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Rather than celebrate Easter with bunnies, Australians are increasingly ushering in fall (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, WIZARD, AND CUCKOO.

Easter witches at the Aquaria Vattenmuseum in Stockholm, Sweden. Image credit: Getty Images

While the Easter Bilby might sound strange to anyone unfamiliar with it, others 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.

This sensory-friendly Caring Bunny greeted and posed for photos with children with autism and special needs on this year’s World Autism Awareness Day. Sponsored by Autism Speaks, the event took place in malls across the U.S., which dimmed the lights, lowered the music, and shut down noisy escalators and fountains to accommodate kids who were unable to deal with the visual and auditory stimulation of a normal mall.

8. FAMOUS PEOPLE LOVE DONNING BUNNY COSTUMES.

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. U.S. PRESS SECRETARY SEAN SPICER WAS ONCE THE WHITE HOUSE EASTER BUNNY.

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.

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Halloween and Easter are the two big holidays for candy sales, with Easter sometimes coming out on top (at least in dollar sales). Each year, Americans spend over $2 billion on Easter candy, including chocolate bunnies, marshmallow bunnies and eggs, and Jelly Beans. About 90 million chocolate Easter Bunnies are produced every Easter, which makes for a ton of mouthwatering chocolate rabbits in kids’ (and adults’) Easter baskets.

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Game of Thrones Made a Fun Nod to Harry Potter In Its Season Premiere
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Warning: This article contains mild spoilers about the season seven premiere of Game of Thrones. It also spoils minor plot points of the Harry Potter films.

Harry Potter fans may have gotten a strange sense of déjà vu during last night’s Game of Thrones season opener. That’s because the HBO series’ creators appear to have dropped in a subtle reference to the Harry Potter film franchise—and the Internet, in a moment of truly esoteric nerd trivia, picked up on it immediately.

The Easter egg came when Samwell Tarly, eager to discover an obscure bit of history that could help Westeros fend off the advancing White Walkers, asks the archmaester Ebrose for access to the restricted section of the Citadel’s library.

Devoted fantasy fans will recall that in another world, at another time, a young Voldemort asked Professor Slughorn for permission to enter the restricted section of the library at Hogwarts. The connection? Jim Broadbent, the real-life muggle actor who played Slughorn in the final three movies of the Harry Potter franchise, made his Game of Thrones debut last night playing Ebrose.

It seems that no matter where Broadbent goes, no matter how far he travels across fantasy universes, he can’t escape eager pupils trying to meddle in parts of the library where they don’t belong.

[h/t: Independent]

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12 Ways to Use Leftover Eggshells
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After the Easter egg hunt is done, the ham has been served, and the ears have been bitten off the bunnies, you may find yourself making excessive amounts of egg salad and facing a giant pile of eggshells. But don't throw them out! Because the shells are an organic material packed with calcium and a perfectly abrasive texture, they have lots of benefits that you can tap into for plenty of helpful uses at home.

1. BOOST YOUR TOMATO PLANTS.

Easter means the summer growing season is not far off, and if you're industrious, you might already be growing some seedlings to get a jump on things. When you plant or pot your tomato plants, put some eggshells at the bottom of the hole or the pot. The shells are loaded with calcium and can help protect your tomatoes from calcium deficiency, which causes blossom-end rot.

2. MAKE YOUR OWN HOUSEHOLD CLEANER.

Eggshells are naturally abrasive but don’t contain the toxic chemicals you find in store-bought cleaners. Because of this, they make for a great multi-purpose householder cleaner. For this use, be sure to use eggshells from your deviled egg platter that have not been dyed (it’s OK to use those with stickers if you peel them off). Dry the eggshells completely and then pulverize them in a food processor. Mix them with baking soda in a 1:3 ratio (for example,1 tablespoon of eggshells to 3 tablespoons baking soda) and add water to moisten the mixture. This is a great way to scrub your stovetop, pots, counter, or water stains from your shower.

3. CLEAN YOUR DRAINS.

Dry and pulverize the shells and sprinkle a quarter teaspoon of the powder into the kitchen sink when you drain it after washing dishes. The abrasive egg powder will cling to the bits of food in your pipes and turn into little scrubbers as they move through the pipes. This will help reduce build-up throughout your plumbing.

4. MELLOW OUT YOUR COFFEE.

Make sure your eggshells are clean and do not contain any of the egg membrane (and only use plain shells or those decorated with natural food coloring). Put some of the eggshells in your coffee grounds when you add them to your coffee maker. Eggshells are mostly calcium, which is alkaline, and can absorb some of the acid in the coffee, giving it a mellower flavor. In fact, one test found that stirring some eggshells in a cup of over-brewed coffee also improved the taste.

5. USE INSTEAD OF A BOTTLE BRUSH.

If you have a vase with those annoying, impossible-to-reach water marks on the inside, drop some crushed eggshells into the vase with a little bit of warm water and a drop of dish soap. Swirl the mixture around, and the abrasive shells will scrub off the water marks and rinse right out.

6. HATCH SOME SEEDLINGS.

If you’re agile enough to keep roughly half of an eggshell intact, it makes the perfect container for starting seedlings. Place the shells in an empty egg container (or spruce things up with one of the pretty ceramic egg crates that are popular). Partially fill the shells with dirt and plant the seedlings. When it’s time to transplant them, you can just put the whole shell right into the ground since it is biodegradable and will add to the calcium in the soil (but give the shell a crack on the bottom before planting so the roots don't have any problems getting through).

7. GET RID OF GARDEN PESTS.

Diatomaceous earth is often used in gardens to control beetles, slugs, roaches, and other pests. This natural product is basically ground up fossils, which is an abrasive material that irritates, dries out, and eventually kills the bugs. Leftover eggshells can create the same effect. Pulverize them and sprinkle directly on the pests, their nests, or around the leaves or base of your plants to help control pest attacks.

8. SCARE AWAY STRAY CATS.

If stray or neighborhood cats are using your garden to relieve themselves (or are taunting your dogs by tiptoeing through your yard), spread some roughly crushed eggshells around the area the cats are frequenting. Cats don’t like the crunchy, sharp feel of the shells on their paws, and will learn to avoid that area.

9. REPLACE ANY MICROBEAD CLEANSERS.

Beauty products with microbeads can no longer be produced after July 2017, when a law signed by President Obama in late 2015 goes into effect. Microbeads are great for exfoliation, but it turns out the tiny bits of plastic are damaging to the environment, particularly to fish, who ingest them. Eggshells, however, are a great, environmentally friendly alternative. Use plain eggshells without coloring; dry and pulverize the shells, and mix with an egg white. This can be used as an exfoliating cleanser or as a face mask.

10. ADD TO YOUR BIRDSEED.

Wild birds at your feeder will benefit if you add lightly crushed eggshells to the bird seed. Be sure to use shells that are plain or have only been colored with natural food coloring and have been completely dried (baking the shells at 250°F for about 10 minutes will do the trick). Female birds, who may be calcium deficient after laying their own eggs, will get a boost from this addition to the food. You can also gently crumble the shells and spread them on the ground for the birds if you don’t have a feeder.

11. REMOVE STAINS.

If you’ve got mugs stained from coffee and tea, eggshells can help return them to their original color. Crush the shells and place them in the mug with a little water and let it sit overnight. The porous shells will absorb the stain and leave your mugs clean without any crazy scrubbing on your part.

12. MAKE AN INEXPENSIVE CALCIUM SUPPLEMENT.

Plain or naturally colored eggshells can save you money on your calcium supplements. Studies have found that ground eggshells make a good substitute for manufactured calcium supplements (and in some cases might even be better). One eggshell contains about two grams of calcium, which is twice the recommended daily intake for adults. Rather than having your omelette with a side of shell though, you can add finely ground eggshells to any variety of food that you cook, like pizza or pasta. You can also mix ground shells into your dog or cat's meal as a calcium supplement.

All images via iStock.

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