Do you know someone who is excited about the Osterhase (Easter Bunny)? Why not get out some paper, pencil, and maybe some colorful markers, and let your little one write a letter to the Osterhase, Hanni Hase in Ostereistedt! The idea for an Easter Bunny Post Office came from an Advertising company in Hamburg back in 1982, as part of the “Write Again” program for the Deutsche Post. Their plan, set up a mailbox for Hanni Hase to receive letters from children, and then send out an answer. What started as a simple idea grew like crazy! Originally, the mailbox in the Niedersachsen (Lower Saxony) village of Ostereistedt saw 120 to 150 letters…. but last year the number grew to 59,000 letters!
Fortunately, Hanni has help.
There are 17 volunteers, mostly retired postal workers and a few other hard working volunteers who read and answer each letter. Because of Covid-19, children are home with more time to write letters, and there were more concerns about whether the Easter Bunny would even make it to their home. (Originally, Hanni and the volunteers got big packets of letters from classes where the teacher made letter writing an assignment) Now kids write from home. “We old hands ensure that every child who writes to the Easter Bunny gets an answer,” says chief secretary Hans-Hermann Dunker (78), who personally handles 70-100 letters each day. Some children share funny stories or cute pictures, others reach out to wish the Osterhase good health, or with worries of their own. Children ask about Frau Hase, and if Hanni has children (he does, 7, and he hopes that one of them will take over the Osterhase duties some day). And more than a few are worried that Hanni will hide their eggs in the wrong garden, since they won’t be visiting Oma and Opa… A few Omas have written Hanni about the same thing.
The volunteers love the hand written notes and sweet drawings that the children send them (and hang some of their favorites around the workshop).
Every Child Gets a Response.
This year the work started in early March. It takes time to go through thousands of letters! (Besides, Hanni has 7 children, which keeps things pretty busy in the Rabbit Hutch). (Don’t worry about Hanni and his helpers… they are following strict Covid protocols, and have expanded their operation to an unused sheep pen for more distancing). In Germany a child is guaranteed a response if they get their letter in before Good Friday (April 2nd in 2021). But many come from further away. Hanni and her volunteers have gotten letters from as far away as the United States and Thailand! (I believe they are answered too).
With so many letters, it is no longer possible to hand write a response to every child. But each letter is carefully read, and every letter does get an answer (remember the excitement of getting an ACTUAL letter in the mail?). These pre-printed notes come with a surprise… a craft idea or recipe to make at home. The address on the envelope is handwritten (to give a personal touch). And some very special letters get a few personal lines written on them.