Hi, friends — can you believe it’s Easter already? The year is flying by! Jk, it’s April Fools of course, hope you can say “Rabbit, Rabbit” and get the good luck. Easter is on the 17th, so I thought I’d look into the whole Easter bunny business. When I was a kid I cared more about the Easter bunny than Santa. I think it was because the magic felt more real: the sudden burst of spring, bright flowers, warm days, warm light, new life. Spring comes back, amazingly, every single year. —Amy Jean
A few years ago we kept chickens and let them free range around the house. In this happy chaos, I once found an egg in the grass under the kitchen window. The little egg was so unexpected, a bright surprise. In that moment, I felt like I learned something about Easter and spring life. If given the chance, chickens lay eggs all over the place—and someone must find them, of course. Around the corner a cottontail sat on its haunches, nibbling clover and twitching its nose (with a twinkle in its eye).
My vision of Easter bunny beginnings is as likely as any other version of Easter bunny beginnings. It seems no one really knows why a rabbit with eggs became a secular symbol of the holiday. One source comes from the 17th century, when the German physician Georg Franck von Franckenau recorded the story of an Easter hare leaving eggs in gardens. When German immigrants arrived in America, they brought the story with them, and it grew from there. Like Santa Claus, it wasn’t really until the 20th century when popular culture and marketing solidified the character as we know it.
Rabbits are, unsurprisingly, a longtime symbol of fertility and spring renewal, given their reproductive abilities. There is a wonderfully complicated, circular debate about how rabbits and/or hares may have been related to the pagan goddess Ēostre, who may or may not have been related to spring (or possibly morning light), and may or may not have been made up by the 8th century English monk Bede. In any case, hares and rabbits, leaping into tall grass or being bold as brass are vessels for meaning. They give us something to pour our stories into, a known but unknown creature who shares our space.
All of our rituals line up with the movement of the Earth around the sun. The stories are told in different ways, but the underlying inspiration is our movement through the stars, the Earth’s tilt toward the sun, the rock-solid phases of the moon. The spring equinox was on March 20, and the morning light at 6:45 is vastly different this week than it was last week. The cottontails are up at dawn, a little earlier every day.
Here comes Peter Cottontail—
These demented Easter bunny + kids photos from the 1970s and 80s actually really made me laugh [via Decades]
I vaguely remember watching Here Comes Peter Cottontail, the stop-motion picture by Rankin/Bass (best known for Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer). It’s more surrealist and strange than Rudolph. The narrator looks like Conan O’Brien and the evil rabbit is voiced by Vincent Price. [YouTube]
The Wikipedia entry for Ēostre might be my favorite Wikipedia rabbit hole of all time, showing how stories bend in circles and lose their beginnings and it’s a tangled mess how we actually got here—but at the end of the day we’re compelled by ideas of spring and dawn and for some reason rabbits and eggs in any form we will gobble them up. Also, Georg Franck von Franckenau is a real person and not a pretend name I made up. [via Wikipedia]
My Easter eastern cottontail is for sale with proceeds going to UNICEF.
10% off all drawings as thanks for being a subscriber—please use the code “rabbitrabbit10” here.
Wild Life / Rabbit, Rabbit #5 — arriving in the early hours on the first of every month, Rabbit, Rabbit brings good luck, and is a chance to learn more about rabbits (wild rabbits, pet rabbits, rabbit legends and rabbit lore—and possibly something about the three in my driveway). Normally this only goes out to paid subscribers, but I’m opening it up later in the day because it’s April 1 and we need some cheer. Thank you for being a subscriber!