Although Easter is a time when Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, its origins can be traced back to much earlier, pagan times. Some sources say the name Easter comes from Ishtar (pronounced ‘Easter’), the Babylonian and Assyrian goddess of sex and fertility. Given the similarity of the names, as well as the bunny’s propensity for frequent reproduction, the association of bunnies with Ishtar-Easter would seem to make perfect sense.
However, other sources say there is no actual evidence that Ishtar is associated with the present-day Easter celebrations and cite the Venerable Bede as their source when explaining that the name comes from Eostre, an Anglo-Saxon goddess of Spring. Springtime festivities traditionally celebrate rebirth and fertility, so the Easter bunnies fit right in with that explanation.
It seems the modern day Easter bunny started life amongst German Lutherans (the earliest known written record is dated 1682), where his role was a little like that of Santa Claus – if a child had been good, they would receive gifts from an Easter bunny carrying a basketful of coloured eggs, and sometimes sweets and toys. If you’ve been good boys and girls, perhaps the bunny will bring you a gift as well.