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Easter Animals from Around the World | From Bunnies to Bilbies and Beyond
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Easter Animals from Around the World | From Bunnies to Bilbies and Beyond

Easter is a special time that is celebrated widely around the world. This holiday is associated with many different traditions and customs, depending on where you live. One of the most popular, recognisable symbols of Easter globally is undoubtedly the Easter bunny. The Easter bunny is a tradition that is incredibly popular in parts of the world such as the US and the UK. Whilst this symbol may be well recognised in our corner of the globe, did you know that other countries actually have other animals that are associated with the holiday? 


So where did the Easter bunny tradition originate? 

Some believe they were chosen (along with eggs) as seasonal mascots because they represent new life, which is relevant to both springtime and the religious significance of Easter. Throughout northern Europe in March, hares can be seen running around in the empty fields competing for a mate. So it might have been that hares were seen as a spring and Easter animal, especially in Germany and The Netherlands. The earliest record of an Easter rabbit is from 1682 in central Germany where, in a folk story, a rabbit hides eggs in a field for children to find. In other parts of Germany, the animal featured in this folk story was often a fox or a stork. The Easter bunny seems to have become more popular when German and Dutch settlers took these folk stories over to the US.


What other animals are part of Easter celebrations? 

In Switzerland, the cuckoo bird is often associated with Easter celebrations. They are widely considered as an overall symbol for Spring time within the country, representing new life. Commonly found in the area, it is a popular belief that cuckoos are the ones bringing eggs for children at Easter. Cuckoo birds are notorious egg thieves in the animal kingdom, which may explain the colourful array of eggs they bring! 

Here is one of the more unusual animals associated with Easter - dogs. In Russia, dogs are believed to lay Easter eggs. According to the legend, a dog was present at the tomb of Jesus and witnessed his resurrection. The dog was so overjoyed that it began wagging its tail and scattered eggs everywhere. This is believed to be where the Easter egg hunt tradition started. 

Australia is another country that celebrates a different animal, too. Australians aren’t too big on bunnies. Rabbits were brought to Australia in the 17th century and since then they’ve become an invasive species responsible for destroying crops. Instead, Australian children recieve their treats from the native bilby, which is a small, rabbit-like marsupial with big ears. Bilbies not only have a better reputation in Australia, they’re also endangered, so having them represent Easter increases awareness for their conservation. You can even find chocolate shaped like Bilbies in place of bunny rabbits! 


What other Easter traditions are there around the world?

In France, there is a whole different entity bringing the Easter treats to children - enchanted flying bells. These whimsical flying church bells are said to be responsible for delivering Easter gifts. In France, it’s tradition not to ring church bells from Maundy Thursday until Easter Sunday. This represents the period of mourning, during which Jesus was crucified, and leads into the celebration of his resurrection on Easter morning. The story told to French children is that the bells aren’t ringing because they’re too busy flying to Rome to be blessed by the Pope. On their way back to France, they drop treats all over France for children to find.

Sweden have a completely different tradition to others around the globe. Påskkäring, or the Easter Witch, is an ancient tradition in Sweden. During the witch hunts of the 15th century, it was believed that Easter was the witches’ Sabbath and a day that everything would be backwards. Because of the long-standing fear of witches, children would often dress as witches to scare and prank locals. Today, the tradition is less mean-spirited. Young children dress up as elderly witches and go door-to-door with a drawing, asking to be rewarded for their artistry with sweets. This tradition isn't too dissimilar to Halloween in the UK. 

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