When I was planning the schedule for Slamseys Art’s workshops at the end of last year, I thought it would be a good idea to have a wild rabbit taxidermy workshop just after the Easter weekend and make the most of the hype around the Easter Bunny – but when I started to think about it, the Easter Bunny is a really weird concept – why would a rabbit make a nest and lay eggs? Surely an Easter chicken would make a lot more sense!
Over the years I’ve heard a lot of theories about why a rabbit delivers chocolate eggs at the beginning of Spring, but to be honest I’ve always been skeptical – I can remember being in Mrs Bailey’s reception class at primary school and being made to wait in the classroom while a surprise guest visited the cloakroom. The TA came out with a basket full of eggs for us all, I remember wondering why we weren’t allowed to meet him and thinking that something was surely amiss.
I know that eggs are one of the things to be abstained from during Lent (hence pancake day) and that boiling them was a good way to preserve them, so the idea of a celebration at the end of lent with decorated hard boiled eggs kind of makes sense, but where does the rabbit fit in? Is he a Father Christmas type figure, delivering the eggs? Hares and rabbits feature heavily in early Christian illustrations to represent fertility, but hares in particular were thought to be hermaphrodites and able to reproduce without the loss of virginity – a very highly valued skill.
As I grew up I rejected a lot of the stories from Christianity, but was relieved to discover that Easter eggs had their roots in old pagan festivals and myths – Eostre was a pagan goddess with a hare companion whose ovaries symbolised the rebirth of Spring – and most importantly I could enjoy my chocolate eggs without feeling hypocritical! I’ve since read that Eostre and her bunny were almost certainly made up by pagan revivalists in the Victorian times and that she and her rabbit or hare have been retrospectively added into folklore and myths.
So no it doesn’t really make sense that a giant rabbit visits children with a basket full of chocolate eggs, but the tales of the Easter Bunny, rabbit or hare and their eggs seem to be so entangled in history, folklore and tradition that where it originated from doesn’t really matter any more.
Personally I will be celebrating Easter with dippy eggs from mum’s chickens for breakfast because they’re my favourite, chocolate Easter eggs for lunch because I *love* chocolate, and an Easter Bunny themed rabbit taxidermy workshop at the barn – why not!