Der Osterhase is born!
The Easter Bunny, or der Osterhase, is deeply rooted in German Easter tradition. The first mention of the Osterhase was in German writings dating back to the 1500s. The origins of the legendary hare are a bit of a mystery, but there are a couple tales that rise above the rest. First is the story of a poor woman who decorated her eggs during a famine. She then hid these colored eggs out in the garden for her children to find. As soon as the children had found the eggs, a large hare was seen hopping away. Naturally, the children thought the colored eggs were from this large hare. Thus, the Osterhase, or Easter Bunny, was born! This tale was then brought to America by German immigrants who settled in Pennyslvania in the 1700s.
The other story is that of a pagan goddess name Eostre. Easter is through to have been named after this pagan goddess of spring and fertility. The legend says that Eostre had found a bird dying from the freezing weather. She turned this bird into a rabbit so its fur would keep it warm. This rabbit still laid eggs, like the bird it once was. It is also mentioned that this rabbit would paint and decorate his eggs for Eostre, to show his love and appreciation.
The Hunt for Sweets & Eggs
In the early 1800s, the first edible Osterhasen was created, made of pastry and sugar. The sweets have long been a part of Easter tradition, and the typical offering is the chocolate bunny. Some say the sweets are enjoyed on Easter because they are, for many, a typical Lent sacrifice. For many years children have been leaving their baskets out at night for the Osterhase to fill during his visit with treats for good behavior and then hunt for the prized colored eggs he leaves.
Easter Bunny Rivals?
The Osterhase hasn't always been the star animal of Easter. For many years in Germany, children waited for der Osterfuchs, or Easter Fox to deliver their eggs. They would hunt for the Fuchseier (fox eggs) which were dyed yellow from the skins of onions. Children in Bohmen waited for the Osterhahn (Easter Rooster) while kids in Thuringia expected the the Osterstorch (Easter Stork). Due to a very tense relationship with the crop and land busting bunny In Australia, they have attempted to replace the Easter Bunny with the Easter Bilbie. This cute native Australian marsupial can be found made of chocolate as an alternative to the classic rabbit. In Switzerland, there is the famous Easter cuckoo who brings the Easter eggs. The special cuckoo bird is thought to be a bearer of luck and hope, thus giving an extra cheery boost to the Easter season. No matter which country you live in, the Osterhase still prevails as the most popular deliverer of eggs on Easter morning.
From the Military Mom's Guide to Kaiserslautern: If you'd like to purchase some local German chocolate, take a visit to the WAWI chocolate factory in Pirmasens. WAWI opened in 1957 and established this special visitor center in 2004. Here you can take a tour of the factory and museum, free of charge, and discover what makes these chocolates so amazing. Afterwards, head to the cafe and store to purchase some delicious chocolate bunnies and other treats for this coming holiday. Unterer Sommerwaldweg 18-20, 66953 Pirmasens. www.wawi-group.de.
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