Where The Rabbit Joined The Easter Parade

The Easter Bunny became part of the celebration when pagan traditions were adapted by early Christians.

The Easter Bunny became part of the celebration when pagan traditions were adapted by early Christians.

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It’s probably easy for most of us to comprehend how Jesus is associated with Easter. His death, resurrection and all of that are the real essence of our Easter celebration. But just how in the name of the furry little “wascally wabbit” did the “Easter Bunny” hippity-hop its way into this religious celebration?

Well, after a little bit of research into the subject, I think I have discovered several theories as to how the reverence of the Easter celebration and the cute and cuddly bunny rabbit became a match.

As it turns out, the Easter Bunny has a long history as a pagan symbol that predates the Christian holiday. In fact, sources suggest that early Christians purposefully co-opted the pagan hare to popularize their own holiday.

It seems that quite a few pagan cultures hold celebrations in the spring. It’s the time of year when plants return to life after being dormant all winter and when animals mate and procreate. These festivities celebrate the renewal of life and promote the fertility of crops, animals and even people.

The Saxons believed in a maiden goddess of fertility named Eostre (or Eastre) and honored her with a spring festival. Hares and rabbits were considered sacred to Eastre, because they are notoriously fertile animals.

In the second century A.D., Christian missionaries attempted to convert the many non-Christian northern European tribes. To help make Christianity attractive, the missionaries turned pagan festivals into Christian holidays. The pagan Eastre festival occurred around the same time as the Christian celebration marking Christ’s resurrection, so the two celebrations sort of blended into one, rabbit and all.

Over time, Eastre became Easter, and the symbolism changed as well. Instead of the Easter rabbit symbolizing fertility, the rabbit may have symbolized an innocent, vulnerable creature that could be sacrificed, similar to the lamb. To Christians, these innocents were tokens of Christ and the sacrifice he made.

And finally, the Easter Bunny we know today seems to have been influenced by German traditions dating back to the 1500s. German children believed that the Oschter (a magical rabbit) would leave them a nest of colored eggs at Eastertime if they were good. Pennsylvania Dutch settlers brought this tradition to America in the 1700s.

On a related note, eggs have long been a symbol of rebirth and thus associated with spring celebrations. In the 600s, Pope Gregory the Great forbade the eating of eggs during Lent (the 40 days preceding Easter), and this helped make eggs a special treat at Easter. Many European cultures also have long-standing customs of decorating eggs and giving them as gifts.

This week’s question

Can you name the bandleader who in 1952 had a hit with his release of the song, which also quickly became a line-dance, “The Bunny Hop”? You may remember that in 1959, the Applejacks came out with a cover version of this song.

This week’s music trivia musician played trumpet with both Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey before becoming his own successful bandleader in the 1950s. He was married for a time to actress Mamie Van Doren.

In all, this bandleader scored 31 hits on the Hit Parade and Billboard charts, including his Top 10 hits, 1952’s “At Last” (vocal by Tommy Mercer), 1953’s “Dragnet” and 1959’s “Peter Gunn.”

Is this “Bunny Hop” bandleader A) Ray Anthony; B) Percy Faith; C) Guy Lombardo; or D) Peter Cottontail?

This week, if you’re the fourth caller and have the correct answer, you’ll win a CD of your favorite artist, genre or era of music.

Last week’s question

This past week’s music trivia question was: In the Rolling Stones’ Rock & Roll Hall of Fame hit “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” what are the words that follow the song’s lyrics, “I’m Jumpin’ Jack Flash”?

Are the ensuing lyrics A) I’m leaping to great heights; B) it’s great to be me: C) get out of my way; or D) it’s a gas, gas, gas?

The correct lyrics are “I’m Jumpin’ Jack Flash, it’s a gas, gas, gas” — which appear three times in the Rolling Stones’ 1968 hit.

Congratulations to last week’s multiple-time music trivia winner, Jack “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” Jumper. Jack won a CD of his favorite hits.

A final note

Mark your calendars, fishermen! Next weekend is the Optimist Club’s Seventh Annual Kid’s Fishing Festival. Green Valley Park will feature free fishing (with a very freshly stocked lake) for the entire family from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, April 6.

The day will include music (that would be me), Scoops Ice Cream, a silent auction, raffles, food booths and fishing clinics by Arizona Game and Fish and Trout Unlimited. And if you don’t have your own, fishing poles and bait will be provided.

Happy Easter, everybunny!

DJ Craig, (928) 468-1482

www.djcraiginpayson.com

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