The highlight for me on Easter Sunday now? Perhaps an online Easter service, some exercise, and a nice dinner, probably lamb chops, and my favorite champagne or sparkling wine. Much has changed since my childhood. It was a highly anticipated day for many reasons back then.
As a child, I was never curious enough to ask why chicken or candy Easter eggs were delivered by a rabbit. Shouldn’t the eggs be delivered by an Easter chicken? Now, I understand that rabbits multiply, and perhaps their greater number contributed to a better and more efficient distribution system. But shouldn’t the poor hen get credit for her hard work in making the eggs?
Truth about hares or rabbits or bunnies? The rabbit has been revered even before Christian times. It was seen as a holy creature and represented fertility, and the return of Spring. But the Easter bunny is German in origin (Herr Hare??? Get it!). Sixteenth century literature portrays him/her delivering Easter eggs. Colored eggs were left only for well-behaved children. You are own your own to find out why Easter is a time for a new outfit, and an Easter bonnet. The edible bunny was also borne in Germany, originally made from pastry, not candy or chocolate.
Actually, the egg is a pagan symbol of the rebirth of the Earth and was adopted by early Christians as a symbol of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. One of the oldest customs is to paint or dye the eggs into colorful objects of art. In modern times, chocolate and plastic Easter eggs have replaced real chicken eggs. Folklore says that it is the Easter Bunny who hides the eggs for children to find. The real question is, where or from whom, did the Easter Bunny steal the eggs?
So, I will skip most of the religious history of Easter, the egg, and its trappings. I want to focus on the Easter Bunny. I made a vow a few years ago to no longer eat rabbit. Dear friend Donna has a wonderful, and handsome pet rabbit, named James. In his honor, I no longer eat rabbit, or even kiss a rabbit’s foot for luck. I was hard pressed one cold and dark evening in Valparaiso, Chile to find a decent meal on a Sunday night. The chef claimed he was the best rabbit chef in all of Chile. Not so.
It turns out that I should be giving up eggs for lent, as they did long ago. An egg was a special treat after a long period of self-denial. Hardboiled eggs were died red to represent Christ’s blood. The children kept the red eggs as a talisman for good health in the ensuing twelve months. Could this be the origin of the Red Egg, and Red Hat parties? In Europe, red eggs are still buried on farm land and vineyards to ensure bountiful crops, and as protection from lightning and hail.
But decorating Easter eggs is still a great tradition. As children, decorating the eggs was actually more fun that the Easter egg hunt or awakening to an Easter basket full of candy. Of course, most of the eggs spoiled, since we chose to look at them, rather than eat them. We chose our favorite color. Since there were four of us, we got three eggs each to dye and decorate. I think I always chose blue. We preferred to use the little paste-on tattoos on our legs and arms, rather than place them on the eggs.
A prize is generally offered to the child collecting the most eggs. In our small town, the egg hunt was focused on several “special eggs”. Most of the eggs were candy, but a few decorated chicken eggs were hidden. If we found one of these, a huge Easter basket was the reward. Of course, I never did find one of those, since I was so busy gathering the candy eggs. It could not have been the most sanitary of activities, in a public park, with rodents and dogs roaming the grounds. With my kids, we used plastic eggs, filled with either jelly beans, other candy, or money. Buddy does not show much interest in hunting Easter eggs.
But it was fun! Easter, much like other holidays of religious origin or significance, have become too commercialized. I wonder if you stopped ten people under the age of thirty, and ask if they knew the origin of Easter? My guess would be less than 50%. Sad but true.
Our Easter Sunday as children always started with making breakfast, then going to church. But the highlight was having Easter Sunday with our cousins, paying baseball in the yard, maybe swimming if it was warm enough, and an Easter egg hunt, followed by a nice Easter dinner by my Aunt Rosie (the great cook and baker). Those were the days!!! I miss them.