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It came to my attention this Passover that old German Haggadahs (books used at the Passover ceremonial meal) often featured an illustration of a rabbit hunt, or of just a rabbit, to serve as a reminder of the order of the blessings in the Havdala ceremony at that meal. A rabbit hunt was used because in German, "jag da has" or "hunt the rabbit" sounds the same as the mnemonic acronym for the order of the blessings. You can read about it more in detail here.

If a Haggadah were printed nowadays with pictures of rabbits on its pages, it would immediately be assumed that rabbits were somehow related to the rabbits of Easter (which typically coincides with Passover) and the publisher is somehow a Christian missionary organization etc....

My question is: Did the association of rabbits with Easter begin after these Haggadahs were published and did it perhaps have something to do with association of rabbits to Passover?

I know it sounds far-fetched but the coincidence is too blatant to ignore completely.

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the wiki page en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Easter_Bunny indicates that rabbits connect to Easter and Christianity well before medieval times and the symbology would certainly preclude hunting rabbits. –  Dan Apr 3 '13 at 2:39
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In German, Hase means hare (not rabbit) and "jagen den Hasen" (hunt the hare) sounds like YAKNEHA"Z - the order of Kiddush when Seder Night is Motzei Shabbat. (Yayin, Kiddush, Ner, Havdalah, Zman). No reason for there to be a connection with Easter bunnies. –  Epicentre Apr 3 '13 at 4:27
    
@Epicentre I noted that the coincidence of bunnies in the Haggada and bunnies in Easter decoration - often on the same night as the seder - was too much to ignore. To the downvoters, regardless of how little a connection you can see, there will certainly be others who wonder the same thing as I and inevitably end up on this question. Therefore I think it must be asked. –  Imray Apr 3 '13 at 6:08
    
Rabbits are associated with the Spring, anyway. And I don't know about Passover, but Easter certainly adopted some traditions from pre-Christian fertility festivals (see also: eggs), and rabbits are famously fertile. There's no real Christian imagery in either rabbits or eggs. –  TRiG Apr 3 '13 at 15:45
    
I don't see why anyone would think it's related to Easter bunnies. I've never seen a rabbitic (hehe) connection to YaKNeHa"Z, but even if someone in Germany a hundred years ago or so thought it was cute, I don't see why it has to be Seder-specific (as opposed to Sukkoth, eg.), nor why one might confuse it with Easter bunnies. If anything, I'd guess it was some weird "modernish" publisher being goofy to sell more copies. –  Seth J Apr 3 '13 at 17:50
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I think that TRiG is probably closest... The hare-haggada connection, as explained in the article, is a medieval Jewish appropriation of the hare-hunt motif, retroactively attached to the jag den Has/YaKNeHZ pun, and ultimately it probably relates to the hare/rabbit as a springtime symbol appropriate for the Pesah celebration (as well as the persecuted-but-escaping hare as a symbol of the Jewish people à la Had Gadya). The rabbit-Easter connection is a little more foggy but is probably a remnant of older pagan European traditions, drawing similarly on the rabbit-springtime connection. While the rabbit appears throughout medieval European iconography, though, the earliest explicit link between rabbits and Easter doesn't appear until the late 1600s in Germany - long after, by the way, the tradition of illuminated haggadot had died out.

Side-bar: the earliest mention of the "Easter bunny" that I could find is from Georg Frank's De ovis paschalibus, [Regarding Easter Eggs], a Latin pamphlet from 1682. You can actually see the original quote here, paragraph 9, where he writes (my very-quick-and-dirty translation from the Latin, excuse my mistakes):

In Upper Germany, in our Palatinate region, Alsace and the surrounding area, and Westphalia, they call these eggs di Hassen-Eier [hare-eggs] because of the story, in which simple-minded folk and children believe that a hare (der Oster-Hasse [The Easter-Hare]) was himself laying those eggs and hiding them in the grass of the gardens etc. so that the children would search after them eagerly, to the amusement and jollity of their elders.

It goes on but I have to run so can't translate much more.

Thus in conclusion I would say that one doesn't come from the other, but they (may) share a common ancestor as springtime festivals (similar to the prevalence, for example, of egg symbolism in Passover and Easter).

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