Home Commentary State of Mind: The Bunny or the Egg?

State of Mind: The Bunny or the Egg?

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It’s time to put an end to the Big Lie! 

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “You mean the big lie that the 2020 election was stolen, Lare?” No, not that. I’m talking about the Easter Bunny laying eggs!

Although it almost seems like a Russian disinformation campaign designed to make rabbits look unnatural, the story of how people came to think the Easter Bunny lays eggs is a complicated one.

After a journalistic investigation that was even more in-depth than that applied by the media to the Hunter Biden laptop story, I’ve determined that we have some of my own relatives — hopefully very, very distant ones — to thank for the confusion.

According to my sources, the legend of the Easter Bunny laying eggs — and may my dead ancestors cover their ears when I say this — originated with German Lutherans as far back as the 1600s. 

Because German Lutherans were from central Europe, back then the Easter Bunny was not a bunny at all (that is, a rabbit). The Easter Bunny was a hare. 

There are more than 16 species of hare in Europe, where since the time of the ancient Greeks hares have been symbols of sex and fertility and, therefore, spring. Indeed, during ancient times hares were thought to be hermaphrodites. The medieval Catholic church held the notion that hares could reproduce without losing their virginity and thus associated hares with the Virgin Mary. A three-hare motif, thought to represent the concept of the trinity, is common in medieval church art. 

If you are confused here about hares and rabbits, just remember that rabbits, such as Bugs, Peter, Flopsy, and Mopsy, live underground in burrows, whereas hares, such as the March Hare, the Texas “jackrabbit” (actually a hare, not a rabbit), and snowshoe hares, live above ground in shallow depressions. Rabbits are born with no fur and closed eyes. Hares are born with fur and with their eyes wide open — ready to fend for themselves. Hares are lankier and tend to have longer ears and bigger feet, and as every exhausted tortoise in a tracksuit knows, tend to be faster than rabbits. 

But the reason the German Lutherans came up with the idea of an Easter Hare wasn’t because of sex and fertility. Heavens no! We’re talking German Lutherans here! It has to do with what they do so well and what I remember from my youth — disciplining their kids using subterfuge and fear of eternal damnation, along with a healthy dose of corporal punishment! But I digress …

In German Lutheran families during the Easter season, the Easter Hare played a role similar to that of Santa Claus at Christmastime, that is, determining whether children had been good or bad. If a child had been good, the Easter Hare would leave candy, toys, and colorful eggs in a prepared “nest” on the night before Easter.

And when those German Lutherans emigrated to places such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana, they brought the tradition of the Easter Hare with them. That figure morphed into an Easter “Bunny” probably because of the prevalence of cottontail rabbits in the eastern and midwestern states.

Now that whole colored egg thing possibly crept into the story because eggs have long been considered symbols of fertility. Also, eating eggs was forbidden during Lent, and long ago, children would go house to house asking for eggs just before Lent began, kind of like a springtime version of trick or treat. 

And then there is a Germanic goddess of spring named Ēostre. The term “Easter” is thought to be derived from the name Ēostre.  

Here’s where the story gets kind of whacky. In one folktale, Ēostre was enjoying her first day as a spring goddess bringing life back to the land when she came upon a frozen bird. Ēostre felt sorry for the bird, so using her powers she brought the bird back to life and changed it into a snowshoe hare. The hare, however, retained the ability from its former life as a bird to lay colored eggs, and it would do so to please Ēostre.

In another version of the tale, the hare does not lay eggs but simply wants to give Ēostre a gift to celebrate the arrival of spring. Unfortunately the only thing the hare can find in its cupboard is an egg. The hare decorates the egg and turns it into a beautiful gift.

So it all comes down to which came first, the bunny or the egg. Many scholars think the practice of decorating eggs began long before Ēostre’s Easter Hare started laying them. Some of the most elaborate decorated eggs are Ukrainian “pysanky,” and the tradition there may go back centuries B.C. The Belarusians, Czechs, Poles, Croats, Serbs, and Hungarians, to name just a few, also have similar traditions of decorating eggs for spring festivals. After the Reformation, the German Lutherans just borrowed what they wanted from the Catholic traditions and attached them to the Easter Hare story.

So, to dispel the lie, the Easter Bunny does not in fact lay eggs. The truth is, the Easter Bunny only delivers Easter eggs. Let’s hope the bunny delivers eggs to us all this year and brings along a glorious spring.