R is for Rabbit

RSpring is my favourite season. Buds are bursting, bunnies are breeding and burgers are burning. Finally we bid adieu to the car park snow mountains. We can shuck off our hats, scarves and coats. We can emerge from our caves, and see daylight after the working day. And we have the Festival of the Cocoa Bean, also known as Easter.

If you are of strong moral fortitude, Easter will mark the end of your 40 days of sacrifice. Go ahead, indulge yourself. You’ve earned it. If you are a lesser being – well, you’ll likely be indulging with or without invitation. For Easter has become a feast of gluttony. The first feast of the year at which the poor forsaken turkey will be sacrificed on the altar of conspicuous consumption.

One thing about Easter I’ve never really grasped is the whole eggs and bunny thing. How did an egg-laying rabbit ever get linked to the most holy of Christian celebrations? I’m no biblical scholar, but I am fairly certain there is no reference to Jesus feeling a little peckish after his three days in the cave, and munching on a chocolate egg.

In my ignorance, I had assumed this particular tradition began courtesy of the miracle of modern marketing – same way that Santa gained his jolly countenance and red suit. I expected to find our friendly Easter Bunny was no more than a promotional prop to bolster the flagging fortunes of Messrs Hershey or Cadbury. I was all set to launch into a tirade on rampant consumerism forsaking yet another of our cherished Christian festivals.

easter bunny

And in part, I would be correct, though off by a few centuries in my apportionment of blame. The Easter Bunny was in fact a marketeers ploy, the result of the actions of Christian salesmen eager to convert the pagan hordes. Our missionaries found it easier to assimilate the heathens if they could find a way to allow traditional festivals to continue under the guise of Christianity.

Our pagan brethren were naturally grateful to see the back of winter. Without Football, Grey’s Anatomy or Bridge Nights, they had nothing to while away the long winter hours. Netflix wasn’t an option either, due to the slow introduction of Broadband to the remote tribes. These poor folk were desperate to get out of the hovel, especially without the convenience of a hot shower to freshen the communal air. So with the lightening of the skies, the thawing of the lakes and the rutting of the young bucks (and the deer), they knew another cycle had begun. To give thanks, they worshipped Eostre, or Eastre, the goddess of dawn, spring and fertility.

Eostre chose wisely for her symbols. Having rejected the birds (too messy) and the bees (too stingy) she settled on the rabbit and the egg as representations of rampant fertility. There is some debate as to whether her symbol was actually the hare or rabbit. This is quite understandable. Around this time it was common practice for balding men to wear a rabbit as a hat. From a distance it was easily mistaken for hare.

And so, over the eons of time, there came a merging of cultures, and a melding of symbols. The Christian salesmen hit their quarterly conversion targets, and pagans were able to continue their old ways, suitably rebranded to appease their new overlords. And christians readily accepted the promise of chocolate as a reward for the long hard days of fasting under Lent.

So there we are. Another mystery resolved. Though quite how the rabbit came to lay the eggs, particularly as he is often portrayed as male, remains a mystery. If you can shed light on this, I would be most grateful.

 

(Easter rabbit from hdwallpapermania.com)

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8 comments

  1. Yes, you are right Drew. How the egg and the bunny comes into the picture is beyond me. Have no idea. Let me know when you find out. However, Spring is my most favorite season because the weather is just right for me…and it’s my birthday month 🙂

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  2. As a child, I cannot really remember the Easter bunny being part of our English chocolate egg ceremony on Easter Sunday. It was always my parents who gave us our egg (yes – only one but also obviously Cadbury’s!) However, my husband’s Germanic family certainly believe it was the Easter bunny who brought the eggs to the house (a little bit like Santa Claus as in only for the good children). I can remember being amazed on our family trip to the U.S.A. at Easter time to see the proliferation of Easter bunnies everywhere and I think it was about at this time that my children had their first Easter egg hunt as devised by the Easter bunny (a now family tradition) over the back of the golf course situated behind our rented villa. Oh happy memories – although possibly not for the startled golfers finding two small children digging in a bunker!

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    1. Same for me – Easter Bunny was not part of English celebrations. Apparently it was early Dutch settlers who took the tradition to the US. So many of the European traditions didn’t cross the Channel, but made it across the Atlantic (there may be another post in there!)

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