Sunday, March 26, 2006

Confused bunny

Now and again the word Easter pops up in a textbook, and my students want to know what it means. I tell them it's a religious holiday, and get the details of that more or less right, but then they want to know what the bunnies and eggs are all about, and that's where I run into trouble.

"The Great Big Bunnies in the Sky descend to earth and lay chocolate eggs all over people's gardens," isn't really an explanation that works, if you know what I mean. And the students are all too ready to believe anything I tell them. (People will believe ANYTHING if it doesn't require thinking. Believing is easier. But egg-laying bunnies is stretching it.)

And all right, if I'm going to be honest I do understand the symbolism of eggs, but - bunnies? BUNNIES? Where do they come in? Usually I can make an intelligent guess when something like this comes up that I don't know, but for this one I'm stymied. I keep forgetting to look it up, and just now I saw a mention of Easter somewhere on the web that reminded me.

Of course I can easily Google this, but I've just taken my medicine and in a few minutes I'll need to lie down. Besides, what I really want to hear is YOUR explanation. Not the official one. I will look that up tomorrow (and this will remind me).

If you didn't already know, what kind of story would YOU invent to explain the bunnies?


Samantha said...

That's a toughie...but egg-laying bunnies will certainly be a lot easier to explain than the flying church bells that bring easter eggs here in France!

crmj said...

I have just resisted the temptation to look it up, but I've always assumed its just because there are lots of baby bunnies around in England at Eastertime. Anyhow, I don't think the bunnies are involved with the eggs, as they? they're just around at the same time.

I once read a book about running the first Holiday Inn in Lhasa; the Chinese staff laid on a Christmas banquet for some tourists and as part of the decor had a cage with two large white rabbits in; not only some confusion between festivals, but also in the middle of the banquet the rabbits started doing what rabbits do. (This is all from memory so anyone else who's read the book don't tell me I got it all wrong. It was quite a funny book.)

Honeybee said...

The Christians essentially stole the date of a Pagan holiday as well as their symbolism to take the power away from the Pagans.

Easter is on a lunar cycle. Pagan.
Easter is actually the name of a pagan goddess, if I remember correctly.

It is the spring fertility festival. Eggs represent fertility, rabbits represent sex. (Rabbits have a lot of sex!)

Very confusing. Not sure how you want to explain it to your students though. Maybe just say that the early Christians stole the symbols and now the whole thing is over-commercialized. Like Christmas, which also has stolen Pagan elements.

Odious said...

"Easter" does come from Eostre, a dawn goddess of (I think) a Germanic pantheon, but the date of it has more to do with Passover and the difficult of moving between solar and lunar calendars than any effort to steal pagan power.

I don't know why a rabbit, but the eggs come from the miracle of Mary Magdalene, who turned an egg red to prove something to someone, I don't remember who or what. That's what my Russian friends say, and they're bigger than I am so I don't argue.

carrie said...

I don't know why, but I should look it up because I often wonder what the deal is with that. I can tell you the Biblical parts, but not the rest. All I know is, the Easter bunny has always freaked me out. Some big man sized rabbit that walks on two legs is going to invade my home when I'm sleeping? No thank you. He does leave chocoalte, so that's good, but otherwise it creeps me right out.

Clara said...

I always assumed rabbits meant fertility... because, well... they breed like rabbits. A doe is pregnant for only a month before she gives birth!

Also, there are baby ducks and chicks that are popular around Easter time. I think that because Spring coincides with Easter, cute baby animals seem to go along with that. Maybe that's another explanation for the bunnies. Snow melts away, flowers bloom, and wildlife abounds.

wendy said...

From what I can remember from Bible class...Ishtar was a Babylonian goddess of love and fertility and the term Easter derives from that.

And I think the rabbit was once a pagan celebration of fertility too and somehow I guess they've all got mashed together (don't know how the crucifixion and resurrectin got in there though) - maybe the same way the birth of Jesus got tied into Christmas?

Wiccachicky said...

In the Wiccan tradition, many lunar godesses have pet hares or rabbits - they were seen as symbols of fertility (which others have mentioned) and feminine luck. What that has to do with Easter eggs is beyond me, but that's my take.

Badaunt said...

Well, I've finally looked it up, and as usual it's Wikipedia to the rescue:

"The original Easter Bunny myth comes from a pagan holiday which was celebrated on the Vernal Equinox. According to Pagan legend, Ostara, the goddess of spring, turned a bird into a rabbit. The rabbit was supposedly able to fly as fast as the bird could fly, but it was still dissapointed that it was a rabbit and not a bird. Ostara had pity on the creature, and one day out of every year, on the Vernal Equinox, she allowed the rabbit to lay eggs like a bird. Due to the proximity of Easter and the Vernal Equinox, converted pagans continued to associate the myth with their new holiday, and the idea has been passed down ever since."

crmj: There are stories (urban legends?) about Santa Claus on a cross in a department store somewhere in Japan. This may not be true, but might as well be - it's exactly the sort of thing that happens here all the time. (On Valentine's Day women give chocolate to men. How did THAT happen?)

kenju said...

How interesting! I have always wondered about bunnies laying eggs, but never enough to look it up. Thanks for educating us all!

Fuzzball said...

All I know is that Easter candy is the best. Those Reeses peanut butter eggs? Come on. They're like crack.

Ms Vile File said...

Reeses peanut butter eggs

Holy $#%@. Why have I never heard of these before? Peanut butter and chocolate. Truly a heaven-sent ambrosia.

P.S. Thanks for dropping by, BadAunt! I am so Very Tempted... but we shall see... ;)

Cheryl said...

Some countries used the symbolism of eggs for new life and some countries used the reappearance of bunnies as proof that new life was coming to the earth.
And then the chocolate companies came along and wanted to sell to them all, so they shoved them together.

Its like Father Christmas, his coat was brown fur until the twenties, when the Coca Cola company put him in their colours......

Cheryl said...

Err, Japanese culture has it that women thank men for being lovely - believe me in the rest of the world its the other way round!
I can't imagine an English man accepting chocolate from a woman without worrying that she was a Dom who wanted to see him in skirts.

And oops prior comment was shortened 'on the hop' (!!) imagined explanation, as requested!

The Editter said...

OMG, I just got completely distracted from thoughts of crucified bunnies by Ms. Vile File commenting!!!

Sounds like you might be the answer to all her readers' prayers and be able to resurrect her! We'll make you Bunny of the Year with your very own centrefold and untold reese's peanut butter cups if you pull it off.

OK I'd better stop now or the giant bunny in the sky won't bring me any chocolate eggs.

tinyhands said...

Is is possible that I'm the only one remembering the David Sedaris essay, Jesus Shaves?

"And who brings the chocolate?" the teacher asked.
I knew the word, so I raised my hand, saying, "The rabbit of Easter. He bring of the chocolate."
"A rabbit?" The teacher, assuming I'd used the wrong word, positioned her index fingers on top of her head, wriggling them as though they were ears. "You mean one of these? A rabbit rabbit?"
"Well, sure," I said. "He come in the night when one sleep on a bed. With a hand he have a basket and foods."
The teacher sighed and shook her head. As far as she was concerned, I had just explained everything that was wrong with my country. "No, no," she said. "Here in France the chocolate is brought by a big bell that flies in from Rome."