Jason Davis: Where’s the bunny come from anyway?

Apr. 21, 2014 @ 12:04 AM

Ah, Easter.

It’s a beautiful holiday, celebrating the greatest gift our God could give — eternal life, through the sacrifice and resurrection of his son, Jesus.

As thousands of us across Sevier County attend church this morning to acknowledge and celebrate that gift, we’ll carry on a tradition that Christians, like us, have been remembering regularly since the second century, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. And it’s an event that will likely be celebrated for the next 2,000 years, God willing.

Over those centuries since Christ’s death and resurrection, we Christians have come up with some strange ways to commemorate the day, and I thought I’d explore some of those in this space today.

Remember those Easter eggs we all dyed as a kid?

Huddled over a coffee cup or bowl of colored vinegar-water we’d wait impatiently as our boiled eggs received their dose of green, blue, yellow or red. If you were anything like me, there were usually one or two eggs that came out some odd shade of gray, thanks to a bath in each of the available colors.

Well, it turns out, those eggs actually could have a theological meaning related to the Easter celebration.

The earliest attempted explanation for colored eggs’ religious meaning I could find was a late 1800s reference in a monthly publication, “The Guardian,” put out by The Reformed Church Publication Board and editoed by Rev. B. Bausman.

“Just so, on that first Easter morning, Jesus came to life and walked out of the tomb, and left it, as it were, an empty shell,” the book stated back in 1878. “Just so, too, when the Christian dies, the body is left in the grave, an empty shell, but the soul takes wings and flies away to be with God. Thus you see that though an egg seems to be as dead as a stone, yet it really has life in it; and also it is like Christ’s dead body, which was raised to life again. This is the reason we use eggs on Easter.”

Never thought of that, huh? Me either.

Honestly, from all I’ve read, it seems that explanation is a handy concoction to give an Christ-themed meaning to the eggs delivered by the Easter Bunny, another tradition that’s gone back hundreds of years.

And where, exactly, does this human-sized, walking rabbit that delivers a basket full of sugary goodness on Easter morning come from?

Well, it doesn’t appear to be a Christ-centered tradition either, though I could be wrong.

Most of what I’ve found indicates that, like Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny was a German creation used mainly to encourage kids to be good around a big holiday.

Dozens of Internet sources attribute the Easter Bunny’s origins to German Lutheran’s Easter Hare in the 1600s, which — like Santa — judged good girls and boys and brought treats to those that had behaved.

Being the father of a 4-year-old, that explanation is totally plausible.

Even before I’d read that possible origin, I myself had used the standard Easter basket threat to calm my rowdy boy before bedtime. After all, what kid can resist a Cadbury Egg?

Speaking of eating, perhaps my favorite Easter tradition is the feast that typically follows the morning service.

With Lent coming to an end, it’s only natural folks would want to dive in to a large spread of home-cooked food. In the eastern churches, it’s even known as the “Feast of Feasts.”

I can vividly remember Easter dinners at my grandmother’s house in the early 1980s. Typically there’d be a ham or large beef roast, green beans, mashed potatoes, deviled eggs, fried sweet potatoes, cream-style corn and a multitude of other southern dishes.

Just thinking about those sweet potatoes — buttery, sweet and just starting to get crispy — makes my mouth water.

After that there was, of course, dessert. There would be pies — and plenty of them. Usually there’d be made-from-scratch chocolate, lemon icebox and my favorite, coconut cream, with a huge mound of meringue. Yum.

In the end, Easter is the most sacred of Holy days in the Christian church. It’s a wonderful day to celebrate the life we’ve been given and the promise of the life to come.

No matter what traditions your family keeps, make today a memorable day with them, together, as I will with mine.