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Rabbits, eggs become mainstay Easter traditions

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

Children don’t question whether it’s possible for rabbits to lay eggs. They just know that when they build a pretty nest of grass and flowers, the Osterhase (Easter rabbit) lays these beautiful multi-colored eggs. It’s the miracle of the beginning of life.

Research says that Easter named after the ancient spring goddess Eastre whose earthly symbol was the hare. Being a pagan symbol, it was rejected by the more austere religious denominations until after the Civil War. With all the tragedy during that time, Easter became a symbol of renewal and hope. (Charles Panati, “Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things”)

I have found no written account of the frivolous hare in the records of the first 1845 Easter in New Braunfels. Arriving on Good Friday, the first settlers celebrated Easter with a worship service under the elms below Sophienburg hill. There is no mention of rabbits or eggs. Supposedly it was the Pennsylvanian Dutch who brought the Easter customs to American. The rabbit was a natural symbol of renewal (that figures).

Easter is one of the most sacred of Christian holy days, falling on the first Sunday after a full moon on or after the vernal equinox (never before March 22 or after April 25). In the Christian religion, it is the celebration of Resurrection.

Now about eggs: The ancient Romans had a saying, “Omne vivum ex ovo” meaning “All life comes from an egg”. Colored eggs were exchanged. as gifts. The eggs were commonly dyed with flowers, leaves, insects, vegetables, and whatever stained.

At Sophie’s Shop at the Sophienburg, we have our share of rabbits and eggs. The Christmas tree in the center of the room is VOILÁ! an Easter tree. It’s decorated with beautiful delicate eggs, glass birds and bunnies of all kinds. My favorite new gift idea is the green glass bee catcher. You have to see it to believe it!

Karl and Helen Kypfer Zipp are a multi-generational family here in NB that celebrates Easter in the same way that their families did years ago. Helen grew up in Geronimo and to this day, her family gets together at the Kypfer homestead for a late Sunday egg hunt. Each child builds a nest of grass outside (unless it rains) and decorates it with rose petals, primroses, and any wildflower that can be found. That illusive rabbit lays beautiful colored eggs in the nest and all over the yard. The advent of food coloring made the laying of colored eggs easier for the rabbit. In the past, the children would be given baby chicks to then be raised on the farm. New clothes, hats, shoes, and gloves were part of the Easter tradition. Helen can remember that wearing white was done only after Easter.

I know what Karl Zipp’s traditional Easter was like because he is part of my extended family. Our aunts and great-aunts owned the original Karl  Roessing homestead in Comaltown on Union Street where the Comal Drug stands. Karl Roessing was his g-grandfather and my g-g-grandfather. The family would gather on Easter Sunday afternoon. While the children played in the house, the men would hide the eggs all over the yard. Then the cousins would take our decorated oatmeal box baskets outside and begin the hunt. It took quite a while because it was such a large yard. In the evening we would sit around a long picnic table under the trees and as evening came, candles were lit casting a sort of magic as night fell. Then began the story-telling and singing. That was the most fun of all.

Karl and Helen Zipp, their three children, and their six grand-daughters and one little guy are a family that has handed down Easter traditions for six generations as so many of you have also done.

 L-R  Helen Williams, Bowden Zipp, Tierce Zipp, and Lillian Williams. Children of Stoney and Sara Williams, and Tim and Allyson Zipp.

L-R Helen Williams, Bowden Zipp, Tierce Zipp, and Lillian Williams. Children of Stoney and Sara Williams, and Tim and Allyson Zipp.