Easter Egg or Easter Bunny, Which Came First?

On Easter morning in modern times, the holiday is celebrated by many with an egg hunt for the kids, though of course there are some, like these Muslim protesters, who are less exuberant about this than others…

The Easter egg hunt is said to follow the visit of an intrepid hare who hides the eggs in the middle of night as gifts to deserving children. But did you ever ask yourself this all-important question:

Which came first, the bunny or the egg?

Legend has it that the Easter bunny once was a bird, as referenced in this delightful tale. In brief, the tale states a bird was transformed into a hare by the fertility goddess, Oestre.

Most of the tales concerning this Germanic deity directly stem from the work of one man called the Venerable Bede, who reported in an 8th century work that Anglo-Saxons of that time worshiped the goddess. Eventually, she even gave the Christian festival, once widely known as Paschal, its modern name, Easter, when those holidays were blended. The legend of the rabbit as a symbol of fertility dates well before this, of course, due to its prolific breeding habits. Many of the earliest recorded references to both rabbits and eggs came predominantly from Egypt, and were documented as far back as 2300 BC, and even then those traditions had been passed down orally for centuries.

The egg was considered a symbol of life and rebirth clear back into antiquity, with its Persian traditions going back even before those found in Egypt. Ancient Phoenecians and Hebrews, who worshipped the mother goddess mentioned in an ancient Ugarit text before 1200 BC as Athirat, may have used these fertility symbols as well. It is less certain if the rabbit was venerated at this point, with most of its historical references occurring after the time of Christ, when the Church adopted the hare into its symbology in connection with the fact that scholars of that time believed rabbits could reproduce asexually, just like the Virgin Mary had done.

In short, it seems likely that due to all available evidence on the topic, the egg was probably around before the bunny. However, this in no way helps us to determine the answer to the much bigger question which has plagued man for so long:

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Clearly, in order to find out more about our birdy friends, we may need to dig even deeper. Or perhaps we could theorize this: maybe the bird that Oestre turned to a rabbit was actually a chicken after all?

Either way, one thing is certain. There will be plenty of happy kids hunting for eggs today.

Robin Joy Wirth for Inquisitr