The Easter Rat
Most present day Easter customs stem from old German spring celebrations. These practices were forced to merge with the Christian holiday when Christianity was introduced to the area. The old religions often focused on a variety of fertility gods and their animal familiars, who were often associated with bringing gifts.
Only first in the 16th century did the rabbit or hare become the exclusive bearer of Easter eggs. Prior to that, a variety of animals performed this task depending on the part of the country in which one lived: a chicken, a fox, a cuckoo, a stork, or a rat. There are several theories as to why only the rabbit character has survived. The primary explanation is the powerful church’s repression of other Easter creatures in favor of the rabbit. Strong commercialization of the bunny in the 1800’s for children served to sever any remaining ties that “heathen” farmers may still have had to their previous beliefs.