All right, well how does chocolate fit in here?
It didn't take long for the early Easter bunny tradition of building nests to turn into building baskets filled with candy and treats. And in the 18th century, it was fairly normal for children celebrating the holiday to receive paper or cardboard rabbits stuffed with treats. In the late 19th century, as the Germanic-centric Easter celebrations became more widespread in the states, the Industrial Revolution turned chocolate into a much more affordable, accessible snack for the masses. So, instead of stuffing paper rabbits with candy, parents were able to make the rabbits out of chocolate.
The most notable early example -- and probably the launch point for the chocolate rabbit seeping into mainstream culture -- happened when Pennsylvania drugstore owner Robert L. Strohecker (probably influenced from nearby Pennsylvania Dutch culture) featured a 5-foot-tall chocolate rabbit in his display window on Easter. His epithet at the Museum of Chocolate even reads "father' of the chocolate Easter bunny." Early 20th-century newspaper articles tout the emergence of the chocolate Easter bunny as a bona fide holiday tradition, and now-common riffs on the traditional bunny shape began to emerge as early the 1920s, like this roaring '20s hare plucking away at a guitar.
As the pagan traditions and the Christian meaning of the holiday began to meld into one giant smorgasbord of springtime celebration, the chocolate Easter bunny joined Jesus' side as one of the main icons of Easter Sunday. Currently, over 90 million chocolate bunnies are created every year to facilitate the holiday's demands (and also, 76% of Americans say they bite the ears off first).
And case you were wondering, most modern chocolate bunnies are hollow for a practical reason, apparently (and not just to dash the hopes and dreams of chocoholic children). “If you had a larger-size bunny and it was solid chocolate, it would be like a brick; you’d be breaking teeth,” Mark Schlott, vice president of operations at R.M. Palmer in Reading, Pennsylvania (one of American's largest manufacturers of chocolate bunnies) told Smithsonian.com. Hm. Sounds like a cop out, huh?
All in all, let's put merits of hollow vs solid bunnies aside, and just be thankful our parents had something besides Peeps to stuff in our pagan-inspired, spring holiday, fertility goddess-worshipping pastel baskets every April.