Easter is totally fucked up. The only thing scarier than an egg-laying anthropomorphized rabbit is the threat of having to eat Peeps, which, as I understand it, are made from a classic formula of marshmallow, food coloring, and crap.
So what exactly is the origin of the Easter bunny?
Somewhat ironically, the tradition was one that Christians absorbed from Pagan practices. I found the answer on About.com in an article written by Jennifer Emick, the site’s alternative religions guide:
In second century Europe, the predominate spring festival was a raucous Saxon fertility celebration in honor of the Saxon Goddess Eastre (Ostara), whose sacred animal was a hare.
Eggs, being an obvious symbol of fertility, were often used in ancient Greek and Roman festivals honoring resurrected deities. I couldn’t find a definite answer on why we color the eggs in our modern day celebration of Jesus’s return, but at least the Wikipedia entry on the Easter Bunny could track down when the rabbit and eggs crossed paths in America. Germans immigrating to Pennsylvania introduced the concept of Osterhas, an egg-laying hare (not a rabbit) that rewarded well-behaved children.
Easter traditions aren’t just strange in the U.S. though. In the Czech Republic, they celebrate Easter on Monday morning. The festivities take the form of men spanking women with a pomlázka, which, in English, is called a whip. I guess the only thing more frightening than Peep consumption is being whipped. Women are allowed to strike back by throwing cold water on the men, a fitting retaliation for medieval era domestic abuse. (Admittedly, these floggings are not meant to cause suffering, but it is thought that women deserve a good spanking every year to maintain their health and beauty.)
In Norway, Easter is the day to solve murder mysteries. Publishers will put out a number of crime-thrillers, called Påskekrimmen, just in time for the holiday. Even milk cartons feature crime stories. It’s also a Norwegian tradition to play Yahtzee.
Easter is one of the most important Christian holidays, but the way it is celebrated varies radically throughout the world. To top it off, the genesis of our Easter traditions comes from a number of obscure origins. It just goes to show that even ancient institutions like religion are dynamic, evolving, and diffusive.
Just imagine Easter a couple hundred years from now when children celebrate by praying to a giant egg-laying rabbit who slaps women around, solves crime, and is particularly talented at Yahtzee. Let’s just hope that Peeps are a tradition that fades out before then.