There are so many wonderful stories about the Easter season, but I especially love those that talk about the traditions such as Easter bunnies and baskets and random miracles.

The first story I love is about the Easter bunny. Once upon a time a sweet and kind rabbit was hopping through the woods on Holy Saturday. Suddenly, she found a nest filled with eggs. Since a fox had killed the mother, the rabbit was worried the eggs wouldn’t hatch. So she sat on the eggs for hours, and fell asleep on the nest overnight, to keep the eggs warm and safe. When the rabbit woke up, it was Easter morning and she discovered that the eggs had hatched. The nest was now filled with little yellow chicks. The baby chicks believed the rabbit was their mother, and she knew that the vulnerable chicks would not survive unless she adopted them. So she did… and now we associate rabbits and eggs with Easter.

A different story says that the rabbit wasn’t a rabbit at all. She was a bird until Eastre (the pagan goddess of morning and spring who also goes by the name Ostara and Esotre) decided to turn the bird into a rabbit which is why the Easter bunny can lay eggs of different colors, similar to bird eggs. This story isn’t as popular, but is derived from the same source as the first story about the rabbit sitting on a nest. These stories are Germanic and came to America with early German immigrants, especially those who settled in Pennsylvania. Although, in the original tales, the rabbits were hares (hares are larger than rabbits and live in a nest above ground instead of a underground burrows where rabbits live) but since hares are more aggressive, the hare became a bunny because bunnies are cuter and sweeter.

The next story tells of a wealthy woman who lived during the Middle Ages in the Black Forest of Germany. When her castle was sieged and she was forced to flee, she sought refuge with the poor peasants who lived on her land. When she left the castle, she carried her favorite hens and shared the eggs with her new neighbors. One Easter morning, she decide to dye the eggs in pretty colors and hide them in the woods for the children to find. The kids were so excited to see the colored eggs. But with no other chickens around, they believed they were rabbit eggs left by the “Osterhase”, aka the Easter bunny. Then the children collected these colored eggs in humble, homemade baskets. After collecting the eggs, the families brought the baskets to the church to be blessed.

Around the same time, families around the world began putting their entire meals into baskets and carrying all the ingredients to the church for an Easter blessing. This is a tradition that, in some Christian churches, still happens today. I love to bring a basket filled with big boxes of salt and large bottles of olive oil to church for an Easter blessing. That way, as I cook all year long, I am using blessed salt and oil in every meal I make.

Baskets, that resemble a bird’s nest filled with eggs, are a symbol of birth and rebirth. In the late 19th century and early 20th century, baskets were filled with chocolate and other treats instead of raw eggs. As time went on, children began leaving out brightly-colored baskets filled with grass that look like a nest. Then the “Osterhase” aka Easter Bunny would come into homes at the moment of the Resurrection and fill the baskets with chocolate. This was also the moment that the period of lent, and the corresponding fasting from rich foods, would end.

One of my favorite miracles associated with Easter is the Legend of Feldkirch, Austria. In 1799, on Easter morning, 18,000 French soldiers (sent by Napoleon) surrounded the town of Feldkirch. Austria. The solders were preparing to siege–and then invade–the town. Town leaders sent a delegation of peace to the French officers and begged for peace. While that was happening, inside the city walls a priest asked the townspeople to pray and trust in God. He said,  “My brothers it is Easter Day! We have been reckoning our own strength, and that fails. Let us turn to God. Ring the bells and have service as usual, and leave the matter in God’s hands.”

Then this priest asked for every bell in the city to be rung at the same time. Well, when the bells rang all morning long, the French officers believed this meant that Austrian troops were on their way to defend the town and save the people. So the French troops retreated and the town survived. While there are historical records about the Battle of Feldkirch that happened on March 23, 1799, the records also show that the soldiers did fight but the Austrians prevailed. This legend of the bells didn’t appear until 1910 when it was written about in a local newspaper, based on letters written by people who lived in the town.

Now, every Sunday morning, bells are rung in churches throughout the world as reminder that we should leave our difficult matters…”in God’s hands.”

I hope you have a lovely last week of April and that soon, the rain will end and the May flowers will bloom.

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