Happy Easter – How the bunny became a symbol

Happy Easter - How the bunny became a symbol
Flickr (CC) / Steven Depolo

Have you ever wondered why the bunny became a symbol of Easter? Well lets find out. It is a very interesting story and it involves stuffed bunnies.

The bunny turned into a popular motif for Easter during the medieval times. In the Orthodox Christianity the eggs should be red and symbolize the blood drops of Jesus Christ. In the Catholic Christianity the eggs symbolize the rising fertility of the earth at the Vernal Equinox.

Since most people are Catholic, it became the more popular choice. One of the customs calls for eggs to be hidden around the house and the yard and have the kids find them. The stuffed Easter bunnies slowly but surely became a part of the holiday as well.

Bloomberg reports that over the years the stuffed Easter bunnies have grown in popularlity more and more. At first their quaility was not the best. But then again, back in the 1970s most stuffed animals had rougher furs and used rougher materials.

Today the stuffed Easter bunnies are a must for every Easter decoration and celebration. They are still the same prices as back in the day but the quality is much, much better. The difference though is that the old stuffed Easter bunnies were slightly bigger than their current counterparts.

Like apparel manufacturing, making plush stuffed animals is a labor-intensive that, beginning with Japan in the 1960s, has served as an early stage in economic development for East Asian countries. Stuffed-toy production moved to South Korea in the 1980s, then to Taiwan, “and then from Taiwan to southern China, then from southern China to northern China, and then from northern China to Indonesia, Vietnam and such,” explained Monica Fitzhugh, the California- based director of product development for Aurora World, founded in Seoul.

“It’s a better product than it was years ago, and it’s not that much more expensive,” said Steven Meyer, the third-generation owner of Mary Meyer Corp., a Vermont-based toy company. Meyer joined the company in 1986, helping his father weather the tough transition to manufacturing in Korea.

For example, Meyer explained, Korean and Taiwanese toymakers introduced safety procedures, later copied in China, to assure the toys didn’t contain hidden hazards.

“Every one of our toys is put through a metal detector before it goes into a box, and that’s because a little shard of a sewing needle can break off and go into the toy,” Meyer said. “We never thought of that when we produced in the United States.”

More immediately apparent is how the toys feel. A stuffed animal that would have delighted a baby boomer now seems rigid and rough. Today’s toys are stuffed with soft, fibrous polyester rather than the foam rubber, sawdust or ground nut shells of the past. Plush outer fabrics no longer have stiff backings; the yarns are knitted to one another rather than attached to a rigid fabric like a carpet. “The whole stuffed toy feels softer and slouchier,” Meyer said.

The secret to both wickable T-shirts and softer Easter bunnies lies in polyester microfibers. These high-tech textiles have replaced the acrylic and polyester plushes that once covered stuffed toys just as they’ve nudged aside cotton for exercise apparel.

It’s a remarkable technical and cultural achievement. Post-disco, polyester was synonymous with cheap, uncomfortable and unfashionable. “Pity poor polyester. People pick on it,” the Wall Street Journal said in a 1982 article chronicling manufacturers’ attempts to rehabilitate the fiber’s image.

Making more delightful children’s toys wasn’t the primary goal of these innovations, of course. Much bigger is the apparel market, where we also tend to take low prices and higher quality for granted. A super-soft Easter bunny is a nice reminder that not all technological progress involves programming and pixels. Some of it you can hug next to your face, writes Virginia Postrel, a Bloomberg columnist.