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The Grave Threat of the Easter Bunny By: Tom Purcell
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, March 21, 2008

Another tradition is making some people uneasy: the Easter Bunny.

Some folks, worried that the Easter Bunny correlates too closely with Christian traditions and is therefore offensive to non-Christians, are abandoning the little fellow.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the town of Walnut Creek renamed its Easter Bunny the "Spring Bunny." The Spring Bunny participates in the town's storied annual tradition, the Spring Egg Hunt.

Some malls across America are changing the Easter Bunny's name, too. According to WorldNetDaily.com, some store managers are calling their bunny "Baxter the Bunny," "Garden Bunny" or "Peter Rabbit."

Peter Rabbit was the name of choice for a Rhode Island school superintendent who, according to ABCnews.com, decided the Easter Bunny ought not visit his school district.

His decision made the ACLU happy. After all, as one ACLU fellow said, schools shouldn't be in the business of promoting Easter celebrations.

Which leads to some interesting questions: What is the Easter celebration, anyhow? What is the origin of the Easter Bunny?

Lawrence Cunningham, a University of Notre Dame theology professor, said in the San Francisco Chronicle that the Easter Bunny has little to do with religion.

"The bunny is a fertility symbol with no religious connection to Easter," he said. "The egg, which was popularized in Greece, Russia, and Eastern Europe in connection with Easter, does not have a religious connection to Easter. By taking away the term 'Easter,' these symbols to some extent return to their pre-Christian roots as symbols of spring fertility."

In other words, somewhere along the line, the furry fellow got twisted up with the resurrection of Jesus. Somewhere along the line, he started wearing a vest and handing out eggs and candy. It took a bit of time -- hundreds of years or more -- for the Easter tradition I knew as a kid to evolve.

Forty days before Easter Sunday, on Ash Wednesday, we'd attend Mass. Lent was on, which meant we had to make a sacrifice of some kind. That meant one thing in our home: no Snyder's of Berlin potato chips until after Easter.

We'd take in the Stations of the Cross on Friday nights. We'd go to Confession before Easter Sunday ("Forgive me, Father, but I stopped at the convenience store three times for Snyder's of Berlin potato chips ..."). The night before Easter, my whole family would sit around the kitchen table dying hard-boiled eggs. Why hard-boiled eggs? Why dye them? We didn't ask. It was tradition.

Finally, Easter Sunday arrived. I was usually the first to rise. I'd rouse my sisters, so we could rush downstairs and search for our baskets. The Easter Bunny was big on hiding things. Eggs are still turning up on the White House's South Lawn from Easter Egg Rolls that date back to the Truman administration.

I'd spend the next hour devouring hollow chocolate bunnies. Then we'd eat a big breakfast, go to Mass and stand in the aisles because the stragglers who never went to Mass were always sitting in our regular seat. I'd spend the rest of the day trying to find where my sisters hid their hollow chocolate bunnies.

Who knows how or why the Easter tradition evolved this way. It's the blending of the customs of so many different people who made their way to America. Over time, the different customs melted together to form the American Easter tradition.

In fact, our current customs will continue to evolve to reflect the different influences that continue to blend within our energetic country. That's what customs and traditions do.

But wouldn't it be best that they evolve naturally and slowly and honestly, as they always have, rather than at the behest of a lawyer who threatens to sue because somebody may be offended by an Easter Bunny handing out candy on public property?

It's a sign of a great civilization that we worry so about offending anyone for any reason, but isn't it a sign of a weakening civilization when people are afraid to call things what they really are?

The bunny who hands out candy and eggs is the Easter Bunny, not the Spring Bunny. He's harmless, too, so long as you don't mind him hiding toxic, fatty chocolate things all over your house.

Tom Purcell's weekly political humor column runs in newspapers and Web sites across America. Visit him at www.TomPurcell.com.

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