Why does a mythical rabbit fill our Easter baskets?

NEW ORLEANS -- Ever wonder why a mystical rabbit fills baskets with candy for us on Easter? Or why we run like lunatics, hunting for eggs? I did, too, so I went to an expert.

Tom Ryan, Ph.D., director of the Loyola Institute for Ministry, said there are a range of myths or symbols involved with Easter, rooted in the history of the holiday.

Easter is to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

"The Easter Bunny and Easter eggs are both symbols of life," said Ryan. "Rabbits are prolific, and eggs are about new life so they are symbols that represent what Easter is about, and that is that life has conquered death."

The candy is meant to serve as a mark for breaking the Lenten fast. But why do we have ham on our Easter dinner table?

"Ham is a more recent development," said Ryan. "But lamb is an important part of Jewish Passover, and Christians associate the Last Supper that leads in to Easter with the Jewish holiday."

As for the Easter bonnet, well according to Ryan, the reason we get all dressed up on Easter is to feel something bodily, to experience the message of Easter, which is that in the end, death does not win, life does.