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What's this Easter Rabbit?

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Easter is, in many ways, a war on Easter.

There are two holidays going on. There is the Creepy Rabbit Hiding Eggs in Your Yard holiday, and there is Actually Definitely the Holiest Day in the Christian Calendar holiday. They seem to bear no relation to each other. As Stan says on South Park, "Look, I’m just saying that somewhere between Jesus dying on the cross and a giant bunny hiding eggs there seems to be a... a gap of information."

It’s so patently unconnected that, to fix it, a children’s author named Frrich Lewandowski wrote a book called The First Easter Bunny that implied the Easter Bunny had been present at the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. ("He saw that the man on the cross was the same man who rode the donkey in the parade a few days earlier. The rabbit was confused, but he remembered how the older rabbits always told the younger rabbits to beware of people because people can change their minds quickly.") For the rabbit, things escalate quickly. ("And for evermore, whenever Easter comes and big people find joy in hearing the good news that Jesus lives, little children will hear that the first living creature to see the Risen Jesus was the Easter Bunny.")

But I defy you to do any better. All ancient holidays have a certain amount of impurity mixed in. Saturnalia was completely ruined by Santa. Whatever original occasion there was gets hopelessly muddied in the dash to sell plastic goods in your local Rite Aid. All Souls’ Day has been taken over by orange and black candies. Easter is pastels. Christmas is red and green.

Easter is the most important holiday on the liturgical calendar — the story of resurrection at the heart of the occasion is the reason there’s a Christian religion to begin with. But if you walk down to a department store, there’s just a lot of chocolate, sometimes wrapped in colorful foil, sometimes hewn into the shape of a rabbit, sometimes just lying there being chocolate. There are also stuffed baby animals, in a variety of unnatural hues. There is egg dye. There are marshmallow Peeps — and at this point I sort of lose the thread.

What does any of this have to do with anything?

Santa, at least, conveys a message of giving, and you see nativity scenes springing up next to the reindeer huddles. But gosh only knows how that rabbit got into the mix.

I understand there’s some connection with a paschal lamb, but — a bunny? Wikipedia implies that potentially at one point someone thought that rabbits could reproduce without losing their virginity, but we have Science now. All that’s left is some sort of pagan egg-hiding ritual, and the sooner we extract the religious from that, the less embarrassing for everyone.

There were some murmurs on Fox News this week about a school in Madison, Ala., that had removed "Easter" from the name of its egg hunt. How Dare They? some asked.

Er, shouldn’t you want to do that? Have you met the Easter egg hunt? I challenge anyone who has elbowed toddlers out of the way to pursue colorful eggs into shrubbery to connect this bizarre ritual to the actually significant religious holiday. "They’re both about rebirth," you say. "And, uh, something about this occasion just cries out for pastels?"

And if we start to insist that people put the "Easter" back in "Easter," the whole thing might collapse under its own logic, like an ill-constructed cake. If you’re really serious about the holiday, perhaps a better solution would be to take Easter out of the Rabbit. How is a non-secular egg hunt any different or better or more Easter-like than what we have now?

Done correctly, Easter is as non-secular as they come. It’s like Christmas turned up, with death and resurrection and Fundamental Beliefs thrown into the mix. But these days it’s a muddle. At the elementary school in Alabama, Principal Lydia Davenport is reported to have said, "Kids love the bunny, and we just make sure we don’t say ‘the Easter bunny’ so that we don’t infringe on the rights of others because people relate the Easter bunny to religion; a bunny is a bunny and a rabbit is a rabbit."

Maybe it’s time we just admitted it’s the Baffling Secular Rabbit of Spring and stopped trying to link the two. Shun the Peeps. Shun the chocolate. Take Easter out of the Easter Bunny. It couldn’t make it any worse. Maybe the only thing sillier than removing it is having it there in the first place.

—The Washington Post

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