As we move deeper into the pantheon of false childhood beings, the obviously sensational nature of these creatures takes a backseat due to the rewards they bring. Children can be bribed into believing almost anything. Because the fictional beings of childhood typically promise gifts in exchange for good behavior, children are more likely to forgo questions and accept the idea that these outlandish creatures actually exist. Parents are willing to perpetuate this belief simply because a few times a year, they can threaten their underlings to behave without really having to enforce any rules. The thought of not receiving prizes from one of the seasonal false beings is usually warning enough to entice kids to straighten up. Parents promote these lies without ever questioning how these fabricated things came into existence at all.
Part 3: The Easter Bunny brings good kids candy on Easter Sunday.
Much like Santa, the ultimate mythical creature of childhood, the Easter Bunny has its roots deep in historical religious tradition. Briefly, the Easter Bunny, originally referred to as the Easter Hare, was a German Lutheran judge who evaluated the behavior of children as the Christian Paschaltide began. Similarly to Santa, the hare would bring gifts in the form of eggs to well-mannered children between Easter Sunday and Pentecost Sunday.
There are truly many reasons why the symbolism of a rabbit worked for Christianity. Eggs and hares represented fertility which matched the motif of springtime rejuvenation. The bunny was portrayed as hermaphroditic, meaning it could procreate asexually thus maintaining its virginity and became a reference to the Christian Virgin Mary. Everything about the bunny itself is symbolic. German immigrants tried to bring the tradition to Sweden, however the term “Easter Bunny” translated into Swedish as “Easter Wizard.” Swedish children still dress as witches during Easter.
It is still commonplace in Christian church services for a bunny of some sort to be present among the congregation on Easter Sunday. The critter serves no real purpose and is largely a symbolic reference to the true origin of the Easter bunny tradition. While nothing engaging ever happens to the bunny like a public blood sacrifice or cooking and eating it in remembrance of Easters of yore, the very presence of the animal suggests that its historical roots are significant and much less murky than that of other mythical creatures like Santa.
Up until this point, the Easter Bunny is chiefly a symbolic figure harkening back to a very real religious and historical pastime. Where the myth gets skewed, as always, is when it is placed in the care of capitalist American parents. The modern day Easter Bunny has taken on the role of a “springtime Santa Claus.” He is present at malls and shopping centers where children can sit on his lap and have their picture taken. He hops through busy restaurants and eateries on Easter Sunday, handing out candy and posing with younglings. He appears at community Easter events and church sponsored Easter egg hunts, perpetuating his very existence merely by his presence, kind of like the hermaphroditic hare of antiquity. He has risen from the ashes of symbolism and metaphor to become an actual creature that children believe exists. His purpose is nil. Much like the real bunny that you may see in church, he contributes nothing. But while his tangible uses are zero, his new symbolism as a “springtime Santa” allows parents to enforce seasonal good behavior without having to play the “bad-guy” role.
Wouldn’t it be so much more valuable if children understood the history behind the man in the Easter Bunny suit? Next time you see this fraudulent bunny prancing around at your local Easter community potluck, knock his head off and reveal the sweaty dude underneath, suffering for his minimum wage.