Why do we use a rabbit and eggs to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ? Is this a complete marketing scheme or is there any real significance?
The use of Easter eggs and Easter bunnies is tied to the date on which Easter is celebrated, so first we much talk about when Easter occurs. The date for the celebration of Easter was determined by the Emperor Constantine at the Nicean Council in 325 AD. Before that time the festival celebrating the resurrection of the Savior was observed on various dates in the spring. Constantine did not want Easter to be celebrated on the Jewish Passover. He said it was a Christian “duty to have nothing in common with the murderers of our Lord” (ignoring the fact that Christ’s execution was a joint effort of Jews and Gentiles). The Council of Nicea accordingly required the feast of the resurrection to be celebrated on a Sunday and never on the day of the Jewish Passover. Easter was to be on the Sunday after the first full moon following the Spring equinox. This meant the date of Easter would always fall between March 22nd and April 25th.
But where did the name Easter come from? One of Constantine’s objectives in the Council of Nicea was to bring peace between the Christians and pagans in Rome, that were, in a manner of speaking, at each other’s throats. So Constantine used a tactic for uniting the two groups by joining the Christian and pagan holidays. He established the dates of the Christian holidays on the same dates that were fixed for the pagan holidays, and attempted to unify the two celebrations that occurred on the same date.
The Christian celebration of the resurrection of the Savior was tied to the pagan celebration of the vernal equinox, or the beginning of spring. The word for Spring used by the Saxon people in northern Europe was eastre, which became the name of the goddess of Spring. The Norse goddess of fertility was given the same name–Ostara. The word in English of course is Easter, which has the Nordic connotation of the goddess of fertility.
In celebrating the vernal equinox, which was the beginning of the time of new birth of all nature, the Nordic pagans used the symbol of both the rabbit, noted for its fertility, and the egg, from which new life emerged, as symbols of their pagan worship. So, beginning with Constantine in 325 AD, the pagan worship of fertility rites and the Christian celebration of the resurrection of the Lord have been linked together in the celebration of Easter.