Of Rabbits and Resurrection
Animals: Tradition - Philosophy


Tracy Sherlock, The Chilliwack Times
April 2009

Easter is that most bizarre of holidays: on one hand it's extremely religious and on the other hand it's heavily rooted in nature.

It's Easter this weekend. Easter is that most bizarre of holidays: on one hand it's extremely religious and on the other hand it's heavily rooted in nature.

Good Friday for some of us means an extra day off, and for others of us recognizes the day Jesus was crucified, one of the holiest of holy days in the entire year. Sunday is Easter Day, which for some of us means chocolate, egg hunts, bunnies with baskets of candy and something do with baby chicks. For others of us, Easter recognizes the resurrection of Jesus and is the year's most important feast day.

It seems Easter was once two celebrations: the Pagan Eastre, and the Christian recognition of Christ's resurrection. And today, it appears we celebrate a mix of both, which explains my confusion about this holy day.

Being from a secular family, my Easter memories do not include church. They do include family gatherings, often a turkey dinner, and, always, an Easter egg hunt. From my grandmother's gorgeous, well-tended back garden to indoor hunts on rainy days, the egg hunt is as connected to Easter in my mind as the tree is part of Christmas.

I never made the connection as a child, but now it seems obvious. Eggs are a symbol of new life; hence, they make the perfect gift for Easter, the day of Jesus' resurrection.

OK, I guess the eggs (rebirth) explain the proliferation of baby chicks on Easter, but what is it with the overgrown bunny handing out the goodies?

Bunnies don't lay eggs, they just reproduce like crazy.

Apparently it is this fecundity that associated rabbits with Easter. Like the eggs, they are a symbol of the rising fertility that comes with the spring season, according to a quick Internet search. I'm told the bunny and eggs are also a symbol of spiritual rebirth, which brings us full circle back to the resurrection of Christ.
But the deeper link to the Earth and nature is what connects me to this holiday. No matter your religion, you can celebrate the return to spring and the corresponding rebirth of plants all around us. The beautiful cherry blossoms, from the palest pink to the deepest maroon, remind me of the glorious reawakening taking place.
Another Easter enigma is the timing, which changes every year, unlike any other holiday. Oh sure, there are those holidays that move about depending on which is the second Monday in October (Thanksgiving) or the first Monday in August (B.C. Day). But Easter and Good Friday can move around by as much as an entire month.

Easter's date is determined by the cycle of the moon. According to the all-knowing Wikipedia, and other websites, Easter falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox.

Therefore, the holy day can fall as early as March 22, or as late as April 25.

Some people may want to fix Easter's date to bring the holiday in line with more modern times, but I like the way the changing date ties us both to something larger than ourselves--the moon --and reminds us of our links to the pagan world.

The moon rules the ocean's tides, women's fertility and probably a whole host of other natural phenomena that we've forgotten about. I think it's a tip of the hat to nature's power to let the moon determine when Easter falls.

On a related note, whatever you might think about the bunnies, and their symbolism of fertility, please don't buy one as a pet this Easter.

Animal shelters, including the Richmond Animal Protection Society, are inundated with unwanted rabbits, and still more rabbits are abandoned on our city streets. In Richmond there are wild rabbits galore throughout the city centre and areas south of Steveston Highway.

So please, if you're tempted to give your kids a rabbit for Easter, unless you're ready for a 10-year commitment, make the rabbit a cute, cuddly stuffed bunny instead.

On that note, I think it's time for another chocolate egg.

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