There are a number of traditions associated with Easter – egg hunts, bonnets and of course the Easter Bunny. However, the link between Easter and rabbits is quite tenuous.
Originally it was the hare that was associated with springtime and the rebirth of nature after the long cold winter months. Eostre the Anglo-Saxon goddess of Spring, from which the word Easter derives, was referred to in the 8th Century by The Venerable Bede as an early Saxon goddess after whom the month of Eosturmonath was named. Many feasts were held to celebrate Eosturmonath which fell in late March or April. Various literary sources are split on whether the sacred animal of Eostre was the hare, but early Christians incorporated the pagan symbols into their own newer religion. In the Middle ages, when Christians believed hares brought bad luck and witches were thought to turn themselves into hares, the name changed to Easter Bunny in the UK. In parts of Europe the Easter Bunny is still known as the Easter Hare today.
Whether hare or rabbit both were thought to symbolise reproduction and growth at the time of the year nature was regenerating. In the case of Christianity the Resurrection of Christ after His death on Good Friday was incorporated to become celebrations of Easter as we know them today.
The Easter hare was in German folklore was also seen as a judge and would bring a present of eggs to children deemed worthy of reward for Eastertide. The commercial aspects of the Easter Bunny and eggs have now all but overtaken the origins of this ancient tradition.