By NICK THOMAS
As a child, I couldn’t understand why Easter never fell at the same time of the year like Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Squirrel Appreciation Day (Jan 21st, in case you want to store some nuts for next year).
On top of that, there was all the hype about eggs and rabbits. Rabbits! Was that why Easter hopped all over the spring calendar from year to year?
There’s an old story that also illustrates the mystery of Easter:
A Sunday School teacher asked her class if they knew the origins of Easter.
“It’s opening day for the Yankees and Giants,” said one boy.
“No,” said a girl, “It’s when we get nice new clothes and go find the eggs from the Easter Bunny.”
Added another boy, “No, you’re both wrong. After Jesus died on the cross, some of his friends buried him in a tomb they called a sepulcher. And three days later Jesus arose and opened the door of the tomb and stepped out.”
“Yes, yes,” said the teacher, “Go on, go on!”
“And if he sees his shadow,” added the boy, “we’ll have six more weeks of bad weather.”
Had I heard that tale as a child, it would have only added to my Easter confusion because I probably would have believed it. I was quite gullible.
I can still remember, one year, some kid telling me that during Lent —the period leading up to Easter —we were morally obliged to lend money to friends who asked for it. So when the kid asked, I lent.
But as I later learned, if you neglected to ask for your money back before Easter Sunday, you lost it.
I lost it.
My parents didn’t adequately answer all my Easter questions, either. They told me it fell on different days because it was “the first Sunday after the Paschal full moon following the northern hemisphere’s vernal equinox.” To a 7-year old, I naturally thought they were pulling a fast one, in order to avoid buying any Easter goodies for me.
As for the rabbits, their association with Easter was a mystery because I thought they had no religious significance. After all, the bible makes no mention of rabbits being used for burnt offerings; there’s no reference to the Passover Bunny; and multitudes aren’t fed with five loaves and two hares.
But Easter became more understandable as I grew older. I learned that the Easter bunny pre-dates Christian times and was part of spring festivals held by ancient civilizations to honor pagan gods. And since rabbits were known for their prodigious reproduction, they were natural symbols of re-birth and new life.
The other bizarre Easter concept I wrestled with in my youth was the connection between rabbits and eggs. Rabbits don’t lay eggs, no matter how much you encourage them. Reptiles (and birds) do, but my idea of an Easter gecko was never greeted enthusiastically whenever I suggested it.
The rabbit-egg association is also an old one, dating back to Europe centuries ago. It seems German children believed that a magical, generous rabbit laid eggs in the grass, and that these were free for the taking.
Along these lines, some Americans have adopted and expanded this idea as a way of life. They now fervently believe in a benevolent government that has the responsibility to provide all sorts of freebies, such as contraception, for anyone claiming to deserve them.
But this isn’t a mystery or necessarily bad. Humans just shouldn’t breed like rabbits.
Nick Thomas is a freelance writer whose columns appear in over 150 magazines and newspapers.