The circumstance of Easter Day being always the first Sunday after the full moon which happens on or next after the 21st of March, and of the hare being associated with both Easter and the moon, renders it probable that the hare, so far as Northern mythology is concerned, became identified with the Easter moon through the Druidical worship of Eostre, whose name, in the form of Ashtar, was discovered by Layard on the Assyrian monuments, and was the Anglian equivalent also of Astarte, the Babylonian queen of heaven. Of this worship of the goddess of spring not only is the Coleshill custom of catching the hare, a relic probably, but also that of Hallaton, in Leicestershire, where, as will be seen in Hazlitt's 'Tenures and Land Customs' (1874, pp. 78 and 141), the rector or vicar is called upon every Easter Monday, as a condition upon which he holds certain lands, to provide, among other comestibles to be scrambled for at a place called Hare-pie Bank, two hare pies, followed by sports of a festival character. An old village custom in Germany was eating "Easter-hare"; and hares were caught at Easter for providing a public meal, a custom best known in Pomerania.
Bede alludes to the festivals connected with the worship of Eostre thus (I quote from *Elton's 'Origins of History,' 1882, p. 408):—
"Antiqui Anglorum populi, gem mea apud
eos aprihs Esturmonath, quondam a dea illorum
quae Eostra vocabatur et cui in illo festa celebrantur, nomen habuit." De Temp. Rat. c. 13.
In Germany, where the Easter-egg custom is very tenaciously observed to this day, a nest is in some parts made of moss, and a hare is set in it. This being hidden in the house or garden, the children are sent to lcok for the eggs that the hare has laid. In many districts, says Mr. Cremer ('Easter Eggs,' p. 11), these eggs are used in preparing cakes in the form of a hare. In Saxony there used to be a saying that "the Easter hare always brings the Easter Egg." The process of reasoning by which the hare became so unmistakably identified with the moon at Easter-time, and with egg-laying, is perhaps traceable not only to its "form" resembling a bird's nest, but also to the rapidity of its motion having suggested the flight of a bird, whence it was easy to induce the belief that she laid eggs like a bird. The Mongolian doctrine, says Grimm, in his **'Teutonic Mythology' (Stallybrass ed., 1883, vol. ii. p. 716), sees in the shadows of the moon the figure of the hare: and in Ceylon a hare takes the place of a man, in the moon. Buddha, when a hermit on earth, lost himself in a wood, where he met a hare, who showed him the way. Buddha thanked the animal, and added, "Mr. Hare, I am both hungry and poor, and cannot reward you." "If you are hungry," replied the hare, "I am at your service; make a fire, kill, and roast me." Buddha made the fire, and the hare instantly jumped into it; but Buddha caught hold of it and flung it into the moon, where it still remains. A French gentleman returned from Ceylon said, "The Cingalese would often beg permission to look at the hare through my telescope, and would exclaim in raptures that they saw it."
[*From Origins of English History By Charles Isaac Elton: The custom of catching hares at Easter for providing a public meal is best known in Pomerania: English instances are found at Coleshill in Warwickshire and at Haloughton in Leicestershire, Hid. 78, 141. At the latter place the profits of lands called Harecrop Leys were applied to providing a meal which was thrown on the ground at the "Hare-pie Bank." Nichols, Hist. Leic. ii. 630. These customs were perhaps connected with the worship of the Anglian goddess "Eostre" whose festivals are mentioned by Bede; "antiqui Anglorum populi, gens mea . . . apud eos Aprilis 'Esturmonath' quondam, a dea illorum quae Eostra vocabatur et cui in illo festa celebrantur, nomen habuit." De Temp. Rat. c. 13.]
[**From Teutonic mythology by Jacob Grimm: The spots or shady depressions on the full-moon's disc have given rise to grotesque but similar myths in several nations. To the common people in India they look like a hare, i.e. Chandras the god of the moon carries a hare (sasa), hence the moon is called sasin or sasanka, hare mark or spot. The Mongolian doctrine also sees in these shadows the figure of a hare. Bogdo Jagjamuni or Shigemuni [the Buddha Sakya-muni], supreme ruler of the sky, once changed himself into a hare, simply to serve as food to a starving traveller; in honour of which meritorious deed Khormusta, whom the Mongols revere as chief of the tenggri [genii], placed the figure of a hare in the moon. The people of Ceylon relate as follows: While Buddha the great god sojourned upon earth as a hermit, he one day lost his way in a wood. He had wandered long, when a hare accosted him: 'Cannot I help thee? strike into the path on thy right, I will guide thee out of the wilderness.' Buddha replied: 'Thank thee, but I am poor and hungry, and unable to repay thy kindness.' 'If thou art hungry' said the hare, 'light a fire, and kill, roast and eat me.' Buddha made a fire, and the hare immediately jumped in. Then did Buddha manifest his divine power, he snatched the beast out of the flames, and set him in the moon, where he may be seen to this day. To the Greenlander's fancy these spots are the marks of Malina's fingers, with which she touched the fine reindeer pelisse of Anninga (Majer's Myth, taschenb. 1811. p. 15).]