The generous Easter Bunny or Easter Hare has, over the times, become the most favorite Easter icon. Easter Bunny is associated with Easter historically, because of its global and secular appeal. It is a symbolic rabbit, which owes its origin to the pre-Christian goddess, Eostre, the mythological goddess of spring and fertility. Since hares give birth to large litters during the early spring, they have become associated as a symbol of the rising fertility of the earth at the Vernal Equinox. It is a common belief that the bunny brings Easter baskets filled with colorful eggs, candy and sometimes, toys to the children's homes on the night before Easter.
However, one fact needs special mention here. There has been a lot of discussion regarding as to what the bunny represents: hare or rabbit. Perhaps it is hare and not the rabbit, which should be treated as the true symbol of Easter. Going by the history, we find that since ancient times it is the hare that has been a symbol for the moon and not the rabbit. There is a very interesting legend about the hare that it never closes its eyes, not even for a single blink! In ancient Egypt, people related hares to the moon. In 1500s, Germans invented edible Easter bunnies from pastry and sugar and was known there as 'Oserhase' or 'Oschter Haws'.
In America, it is the rabbit which is more familiar as an Easter icon, against the traditional hare. The credit of making rabbits so popular and the most famous Easter icon among the non-German kids in America goes to the German immigrants. The German kids used to make rabbit's nests which were filled with adorned eggs. These rabbit nests looked so attractive that even the non-German kids asked for such beautiful gifts on the occasion of Easter. When the Europeans migrated to Australia, they found rabbits to be missing there. Hence, they brought some along with them. Eventually, their population grew and they became a problem. Henceforth, Bilby, an endangered animal in Australia became a new symbol of Easter therein. It looks similar to the rabbit and finally, the Easter bunny retired and Easter Bilby took its place. You can find lots of chocolate Easter Bilby candy and Easter Bilby cards in Australia.
Of the popular Easter icons, the story of history & origin of decorated Easter bunnies is quite interesting.