Easter is just plain weird, isn’t it? I’m talking about the purely secular side of western society’s second biggest holiday of the year. The one with the Easter Bunny and his chocolate eggs.
I was at the mall the other day and guess who was there? You’re right — my Better Half was there, but also I saw the Easter Bunny.
I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the real Easter Bunny — I’m thinking it might have been one of his many mall helpers.
He was sitting in a big fancy chair, sort of like Santa does at Christmas, except with a little child on his lap he looked about 30 feet high (200 cm) and just a little bit creepy.
He had a head the size of a Volkswagen Beetle and a frozen smile and huge blank eyes that were as black as the inside of a cow. And he wore a nice little colourful vest so that little children wouldn’t ruin his fuzzy white fur when they threw up on him.
As I walked by, a little child on the Easter Bunny’s knee wisely refused to look back at the giant head. The boy kept staring straight ahead with a worried look on his face as if to say, “Get me away from this alien bunny!”
But the Mom and the photographer were busy dutifully squeaking rubber toys and making photographer noises designed to get the traumatized child to smile for at least 1/125th of a second so that the camera flash could capture the childhood joy of Easter for Mom and Dad’s scrapbook.
All I could think of was: man, that is seriously weird.
Luckily, when I was a rotten kid, they didn’t have Easter Bunnies in malls.
Heck, they didn’t even have malls. Santa Claus certainly showed up in department stores for the annual obligatory photo sessions, but I don’t remember any big mildly creepy Bunnies at Easter.
I may have involuntarily blocked them from my memory.
Thing is, I must admit I really liked Easter and its Bunny when I was a kid, and I like it now.
It was great fun then, and it was great fun when my own rotten kids were little. Who wouldn’t like a week or more off of school, colouring hard boiled eggs and then searching for the chocolate kind and other goodies like kites and hollow chocolate chickens and hollow chocolate bunnies (my personal favourite) on Easter morning?
But how did all this Easter Bunny and his chocolate eggs get started in the first place?
I’m pretty sure bunnies can’t lay eggs and, even more importantly, isn’t the Easter Bunny a boy bunny? Glad you asked, because I wondered enough about this fascinating conundrum to do some serious research on the topic by taking nearly five minutes consulting the source of all things occasionally somewhat truthful: the worldwide interweb.
I think most of us know that Easter is in the springtime and spring is a time of new growth and rebirth, except when a blizzard snowstorm hits right in the middle of the Easter holidays.
Also we know that bunnies, being highly fertile, have a history of breeding like rabbits, especially in the spring. And we know that birds also breed like rabbits in the spring and have a lot of eggs.
These facts apparently led to the heavy symbolism of springtime fertility that was all the rage in Medieval times, or perhaps the just plain Evil times, I’m still not entirely clear on the whole rabbits-and-eggs thing.
The point is, it’s all about fertility — isn’t it always? And the bunnies and eggs and all that blatant fertility evolved over the years to become the modern Easter Bunny and his chocolate eggs.
However, I’m still not 100 per cent sure where the chocolate part came from, although I have a suspicion that Walmart might have had something to do with it.
But just as important, another fascinating fact I found out that is sort of more or less about the Easter Bunny is that rabbits aren’t actually rodents even though they act like they are. Get this: rabbits are actually “lagomorphs.”
I’ll give anyone who already knew that (like my rotten kid — the son one) a chocolate egg. One of those really little ones that are wrapped in coloured tin foil.
In fact, I think everyone should try to slip “lagomorph” into a conversation this Easter.
For example: “You know, I saw a lagomorph hopping through our neighbourhood the other day” works nicely. I think I’ll call dibs on that one.
But the best thing about my painstaking five-minute research is that I also found out that bunnies are not only lagomorphs but they have a weird phenomenon called “superfetation.”
This means that “female hares can conceive a second litter of offspring while still pregnant with the first.” Much like the lady on the TV show 19 Kids and Counting.
So rabbits can give birth to several litters a year and it sounds to me like they are perpetually pregnant. No wonder the Easter Bunny is a boy bunny, he would be far too busy being fertile to take time out to hide chocolate every Easter.
And speaking of chocolate, have you noticed how difficult it is to find a good old-fashioned hollow chocolate Easter bunny these days? I’ve looked in several places (while I was busy doing other important things, of course) and the classic hollow chocolate rabbit seems to have gone AWOL (A Wabbit On the Loose).
I’ve seen chocolate SpongeBob SquarePants, chocolate Batman, chocolate Lady Gaga and even a full-sized chocolate soccer ball! I kid you not about that one, which for any normal kid would last upwards of three Easters.
But there was nary a hollow chocolate bunny to be found.
I’m sure hoping the Easter Bunny has a good supply, even though the stores don’t, because I’m counting on it this year.
And if the Easter Bunny is reading this, I’m going to look behind the couch cushions first.
Because nothing says “Easter” like biting the ears off a hollow chocolate bunny. Now if that isn’t weird, I don’t know what is.
Harley Hay is a local freelance writer, award-winning author, filmmaker and musician. His column appears on Saturdays in the Advocate. His books can be found at Chapters, Coles and Sunworks in Red Deer.