The hare is also an ancient symbol for the moon. The date of Easter depends on the moon. This may have helped the hare to be absorbed into Easter celebrations.
The hare or rabbit's burrow helped the animal's adoption as part of Easter celebrations. Believers saw the rabbit coming out of its underground home as a symbol for Jesus coming out of the tomb. Perhaps this was another case of taking a pre-existing symbol and giving it Christian meaning.
The Easter hare came to America with German immigrants, and the hare's role passed to the common American rabbit. Originally children made nests for the rabbit in hats, bonnets, or fancy paper boxes, rather than the baskets of today. Once the children finished their nests, they put them in a secluded spot to keep from frightening the shy rabbit. The appealing nests full of colored eggs probably helped the customs to spread.
According to an old German story, a poor woman hid some brightly colored eggs in her garden as Easter treats for children. While the children were searching, a hare hopped past. The children thought that the hare had left the eggs. So every Easter, German children would make nests of leaves and branches in their gardens for the hare. This custom was brought to the United States when the Germans came. The hare became a rabbit because there were more rabbits in the United States. Today, it is called the Easter bunny.
Back in Southern Germany, the first pastry and candy Easter bunnies became popular at the beginning of the nineteenth century. This custom also crossed the Atlantic, and children still eat candy rabbits - particularly chocolate ones - at Easter.