This year we were plagued with questions about the Easter Bunny. It could’ve been because I hadn’t rehearsed my answers. Truth is, I didn’t even think about it. I was busy buying the little pastel items that go into the baskets, shopping for the events surrounding Easter and preparing for our subsequent Spring Break. The back story on the Easter Bunny’s magical visit hadn’t even entered my mind.
It’s no secret that with my children, the Easter Bunny doesn’t hold same magical aptitude that Santa Claus possesses. In my house, there’s no question that with the help of the elves, Santa really can make it down every chimney in every house in the world in one night. But there’s some skepticism about a bunny making its way through the world with baskets of chocolate and hard-boiled, painted and plastic, candy-filled eggs.
For some reason, the Easter Bunny has some things to prove to my children.
Maybe it’s because we don’t threaten them with it as much as we do with Santa. The Christmas threats begin near Thanksgiving. But “the Easter Bunny is watching” just doesn’t have the same zeal. I mean, what is the Easter Bunny going to do if my children behaved poorly? Bring rotten cabbage or carrot bits? Coal has a dark, heavy and lingering meaning when left in a stocking in the dead of winter.
The idea that a big, fluffy bunny leaping on his hind legs is keeping a list of my kids’ behavior isn’t hopping in my house. The fact that this bunny is happy to sit in Santa’s seat at the mall heightens their skepticism.
But the bunny is likable and my kids and eagerly invite his arrival. What kid wouldn’t? But there are questions along the way.
How does the Easter Bunny make it around the world, delivering candy and small treats, they asked. I had to think. I don’t remember in my childhood home how he got around either. I just remember getting a cute bathing suit each year and a basket of candy that if I ate in its entirety would cause my new bathing suit not to fit. I remember the bunny wrapping small items in white tissue paper and having my name each in writing very similar to my mom’s.
But I do not remember even as a child having answers to the difficult questions my kids threw in my direction in the days nearing Easter.
How does the Easter Bunny do it? I reminded the kids that rabbits are nocturnal and that they do much of their busy work at night. Santa should be sleeping.
“Where does he live, obviously not the North Pole…” I quickly rebuffed that he lives in the North Hole, underground. But other questions continued to stump me. What does he do for fun? How old is he and what are his magical powers? Does he have a Mrs. Easter Bunny and how do we know he’s a boy? Who are his helpers?
The connection to coloring eggs, eggs that are not laid by the Easter Bunny seemed confusing to the kids. The baskets, the indoor hunts -- my two older kids seemed pretty incredulous to the whole thing this year… although it could have been the lack of solid answers.
I tried in my most enchanting of explanations to offer something both vague and interpretable. I said he is magic like Santa and he only brings baskets of treats to those who deserve it. I am not sure how he knows, but oh, how he does …
When the Bunny came, the questions stopped. And the love for the Easter Bunny grew. So, they believe.
But it got me really thinking about the Easter lore we have and how those questions brought forth by three kids ages 3, 5 and 7 were beginning to rent space in my head. I mean, what’s the story with the Easter Bunny?
Through preliminary research I was able to see that the rabbit and the hare both represent fertility and new life in Spring. The eggs are also symbols of new life and the story moved from a bunny laying hidden eggs in a garden to a bunny laying eggs in homemade nests and later into the nests made from Easter bonnets and baskets. These stories date back to the 1500 and 1600s. The tradition has now changed to the Easter Bunny bringing sweet treats and small toys to good little girls and boys around the world.
While satisfied to know the pre-Christian lore of the Easter Bunny, I was surprised to find that there isn’t a traditional explanation to those peripheral questions posed by my children.
But I guess that’s just it – how family traditions are created. If you can’t find one to adopt that fits your mold, you create your own.
So I will spend some time gaining perspective on how my family’s Easter Bunny does it each year. It will be a he, from the North Hole, with loads and loads of little helpers. I will derive some answers to the questions they have and tell them the story as if it’s the original one I have told them for years. It’ll be a history book of sorts.