The hare was a popular motif in medieval church art. In ancient times it was widely believed (as by Pliny, Plutarch,Philostratus, and Aelian) that the hare was a hermaphrodite]. The idea that a hare could reproduce without loss of virginity led to an association with the Virgin Mary, with hares sometimes occurring in illuminated manuscripts and Northern European paintings of the Virgin and Christ Child. It may also have been associated with the Holy Trinity, as in the three hares motif, Eggs, like rabbits and hares, are fertility symbols of antiquity. Since birds lay eggs and rabbits and hares give birth to large litters in the early spring, these became symbols of the rising fertility of the earth at the March Equinox.
Rabbits and hares are both prolific breeders. Female hares can conceive a second litter of offspring while still pregnant with the first. This phenomenon is known as superfetation. Lagomorphs mature sexually at an early age and can give birth to several litters a year (hence the saying, “to breed like bunnies”). It is therefore not surprising that rabbits and hares should become fertility symbols, or that their springtime mating antics should enter into Easter folklore.
The reason eggs are associated in celebrating Easter is not clearly known, but some suggest it comes from the roasted egg (the Beitzah) in the Passover Seder, which represented the korban chagigah (festival sacrifice) and was probably introduced to the Passover after the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD. Eggs were also the first dish served at Jewish funerals during Jesus’ lifetime. Since most of the early Christians were Jewish, it is likely they carried forward the tradition and associated the egg with Jesus’ death and resurrection. It is thought that breaking the egg’s shell symbolized the end of ritual sacrifice for atonement.