Sunday, April 08, 2007

Hoppin' Along To My Easter Song

Because I hold a good deal of somewhat interesting but ultimately useless information in my noggin, I tend to get asked a lot of odd questions. Why is the sky blue? (A phenomena called 'Rayleigh scattering' in which short wavelength light is absorbed by gas molecules, whereupon the absorbed blue light is radiated in all directions and scattered around the sky.) What does this button do? (Nothing good. Leave it alone.) How do you solve a problem like Maria? (Very good question. I'm not entirely sure, but I think the first step involves catching a cloud and pinning it down. You don't want that sucker going ANYWHERE...)

Yesterday, Goof asked me about the origins of the Easter Bunny. She was asking on behalf of a classmate of hers who, being from China and thus not familiar with the bizarre ways in which we Westerners celebrate our holidays, didn't understand the link between the bunny and the event. She thought, perhaps, that a rabbit might have played a key role in the resurrection of Christ, and his ascension into heaven, which, were it the case, would have made things a lot more interesting. Imagine attending the Easter Vigil and, midway through, hearing the celebrant bellow, "Peter Cottontail, pray for us! Brer Rabbit, pray for us! Bugs Bunny, pray for us!"

Oddly enough, however, I didn't know the answer to this one, and at the time, had no real desire to find out (I was both cooking my dinner and watching a documentary on 90's Britpop), so I told Goof to go look it up. She was not impressed (and told me so), and after grumbling her disapproval, we moved on to other topics of discussion. However, since she's also reminding me - fairly regularly - to post, I figured I'd do a little research and take this opportunity to kill two birds with one stone (don't know where that expression came from, either. Look it up.)

The places where I would normally go to find this information - animated holiday TV specials - were of no help this time around. There are precious few of them dealing with Easter (I seem to remember a "Family Circus" Easter special, of all things, from my childhood, but little else) and those that do are too weird to consider using as reputable sources of information. Instead, I turned to Wikipedia,, various pieces of literature.

As any good reader of The DaVinci Code knows, early Christian bigwigs, well aware that people would give up their gods before their holidays, did a good job of incorporating pagan practices into Christian festivals, and Easter is no exception. The primary spring festival back in pagan days was one which honored the Saxon Goddess Eastre, whose sacred animal was a hare (it being a symbol of fertility, along with eggs, and rabbits. The idea of an egg laying rabbit, however, seems to be something that we have botched over time by incorporating the two separate symbols.) The colored eggs associated with the bunny come from an even more ancient traditions, the origins of which are unknown, however Greeks to this day typically dye their Easter Eggs red, the color of blood, in recognition of the renewal of life in springtime (and, later, the blood of the sacrificed Christ). Some also use the color green, in honor of the new foliage emerging after the long "dead" time of winter. Other colors, including the pastels popular in the United States and elsewhere (possibly symbolizing the rainbow), seem to have come along later (those last three sentences blatantly copied from Wikipedia - I'm running out of time, here.)

Quickly now, we move along 1500 years to Germany, where children awaited the arrival of "Osterhase" (hase meaning "hare", not rabbit. We seem to have taken a few liberties, here) who would leave for them - only if they were good, mind you - gifts of colored eggs in the nests that the children would make for him in their bonnets and caps. This practice was continued by the German settlers who arrived in the Pennsylvania Dutch country in the 1700's, and from there spread throughout the country, thus ensuring the legend of the Easter Bunny was known far and wide. He's a fertile one, indeed.

So, there you have it. The abridged version of how the Easter Bunny is merely nothing more than a symbol of coercion used by early Christians to cutely convert their non-believing neighbors. Or, if you prefer, he's a swell little rabbit who does his part in promoting tooth decay. Either way, he's kind of enjoyable, and I, for one, am glad to know him. Happy Easter, everybody!

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Blogger Jesse Anna Bornemann said...

Somebunny is a lucky girlfriend!

(Alright, that was an impossibly corny Easter pun - but this was a very good post. Thanks.)

Now, what's the origin and significance of "easy like Sunday morning"??

4:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are quite fount of interesting knowledge. I learned something new therefore I can let the rest of the day coast along into nothingness as I've met my quota of learning. Very interesting

2:35 PM  
Blogger Eric said...

Thanks Kramer! I can't, however, take any of the credit. All I did was type "easter bunny origin" into a search engine and this is the result. I'm glad, however, that you're able to coast through the day with it.

Jesse - The origin of 'Easy Like Sunday Morning' is a bad song. Further explanation may come if I can stomach the research... I liked your pun though. :)

11:04 PM  

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