Archive for March, 2008

The Easter bunny isn’t a rabbit

March 25, 2008

By David Farside

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Easter Sunday is one of those days of the year when symbolism, faith, superstition and family join together to form an eternal optimism for all of us. For some reason, this Easter seemed a little more meaningful than previous ones. It seems as I get older every day has more meaning and Easter Sunday was no exception. Maybe it was the combination of good company, family and friends, great food and perfect weather, or just watching the kids search for Easter eggs.

We usually spend part of our Easter Sunday with friends out on Franktown Road. Traditionally, they invite less fortunate families from their church to their dream mansion for lunch and Easter egg hunts.

This year, they catered to families and 45 children at their annual event. And I do mean catered. They hired a caterer from Carson City to provide the Easter feast, but they always color the eggs and fill the individual baskets with chocolate candy, toys and stuffed animals the Saturday before Easter themselves.

It was about noon time. All the colored eggs and Easter baskets filled with candy and cuddly, stuffed Easter bunnies were hidden carefully around the huge yard. The eager kids were ready to go on the hunt.

It took about an hour for the parents to round up the excited hunters. Their baskets were filled and everyone seemed to be happy. All except one, that is.

She was about 6 years old, small for her age and tears were rolling down her cheeks. You didn’t have to ask what she was crying about: her basket was empty. But I asked anyway.

She said every time she went to pick up the eggs, one of the bigger kids either beat her to it or stole them from her basket. Well, it didn’t take long for her brother to come to the rescue.

He was about 14 years old, skinny, wore glasses and looked like a typical nerd. I probably shouldn’t say typical. What is typical anyway? Barack Obama said his white grandmother was a typical white person. I wonder what he meant by that? Maybe she didn’t get along with his black grandfather. Or maybe she felt the same way about blacks as he feels about whites. Unless they are Oprah Winfrey fans, that is.

Anyway, big brother solved the problem. She pointed out the rude kids in possession of her collection of colored eggs and he went on an Easter hunt of his own. Good for him.

Later that afternoon I had a chance to talk to him. He was proud of his academic achievements and wasn’t afraid to inform me about Easter. I had written several articles on the history of Easter’s symbolism and superstition, so I was interested to hear what he had to say.

He informed me that the concept of an egg-laying bunny was introduced to the U.S. by German immigrants in the late 1800s. They called their bunny “oschter haws,” which really means hare, not bunny or rabbit.

He told me the term “Easter” comes from the pagan goddess Eostre. She saved a bird with frozen wings one cold winter and turned it into a bunny. And because the bunny was once a bird, it was still capable of laying eggs, hence the name “Easter bunny.”

I asked him what the difference was between a rabbit and a hare. He was quick to say hares belong to the genus Lepus. They are much larger than a rabbit, but they both come from the rodent family. And hares have a cleft upper lip. Needless to say, I was really impressed. I asked him how he knew so much about Easter. He said, “I just read it on the Internet.”

I wonder what I would have read if there was an Internet when I was a kid? Certainly, I would have been better informed with more factual knowledge and information. But would I have missed reading the great novels, prose and poetry and philosophy that stimulated my curiosity and prepared me to ride the great pendulum of life, I wonder?

As I drove home, I realized that nothing really changes. Children are still excited about the Easter egg hunt, big kids still pick on the little ones and big brothers still run to their rescue. But thanks to a 14-year-old boy, I learned that the Easter bunny is not a rabbit.