My Easter Weekend Ode to Rabbits, Bunnies and Symbolism

When personified, there is something about rabbits and bunnies that can be downright creepy … eliciting a similar reaction as clowns do. This morning on ABC7 Chicago News, a viewer shared a shot of her baby crying hysterically on the lap of a human dressed as the Easter Bunny. I cannot say I blame this child – the costumed creature was downright scary. Stuffed bunny rabbits are very cute and Jeff’s daughter, who is now 24 and married, was in love with these until the age of 13 or 14. And dwarf rabbits apparently make wonderful pets, as evidenced by my older sister turning to mush when her little bunny Shana is nearby – my serious, scholarly sister with the PhD! Rabbits have been used effectively and annoyingly in advertising, by film directors and artists, in cartoons, and of course – as a lighthearted symbol of the Easter holiday.

The Bunny that Just Keeps on Going

Appearing in television commercials in North America since 1988, the Energizer Bunny has become synonymous with unlimited energy. In fact, I often pin this moniker on my daughter for her seemingly endless energy – she work outs for hours at the gym day in and day out.

Silly Rabbit, Trix are for Kids 

As a child, I felt really sorry for the Trix Rabbit. Introduced as a character by General Mills in 1959, this wacky cartoon rabbit has been trying to trick children into letting him eat Trix cereal for 53 years! Yes, he is annoying, but deep down I still hope that one day the mean humans will acquiesce. I seriously don’t think a few morsels of this cereal would harm a rabbit, although it is probably not the best nutritional choice for kids.

 

Show Biz Rabbits

  • Bugs Bunny, the iconic rabbit with a decidedly sarcastic sense of humor
  • The White Rabbit, the nervous time-obsessed character from the 1951 Disney classic Alice and Wonderland – “I’m late! I’m late! For a very important date! No time to say hello, goodbye! I’m late! I’m late! I’m late!”
  • Roger Rabbit, the animated rambunctious character in the groundbreaking 1988 film by Robert Zemekis, Who Framed Roger Rabbit
  • E.B., son of the Easter Bunny and an aspiring rock and roll drummer, as voiced by Russell Brand in Hop
  • Frank, the large, demonic rabbit that plagues mentally disturbed Donnie Darko in the 2001 cult film of the same name
  • Rabbits, circa 2000, as envisioned by the bizarrely visionary David Lynch and regurgitated in the equally weird Inland Empire, circa 2006
  • Hazel, et al, the doomed anthropomorphic rabbits of Watership Down, the 1972 novel that was made into a 1978 film and 39-episode TV series from 1999 to 2001

The Easter Bunny in All its Incarnations

So what are the origins of the Easter Bunny and how did such an innocent creature transition into an often warped and creepy, costumed being? The Easter Bunny is a symbol of pagan ritual, harkening back to 13th century pre-Christian Germany. Rabbits and hares are indeed prolific breeders and can conceive a second litter while pregnant with the first. The cliché expression, “They multiply like rabbits” is actually grossly exaggerated when compared to other species according to rabbit breeders, but nevertheless responsible for the advent of this symbol of Easter. It is logical that rabbits and hares were adopted as fertility symbols going back to antiquity and later became part of Easter folklore. But that doesn’t explain why humans dress up like really freaky Easter Bunnies that scare the daylights out of young children. I guess if it exists, humans somehow find a way to make it perverse – Santa Claus and clowns are two perfect examples.

Edible Easter Bunnies

While jelly beans and chocolate Easter eggs are dandy, there is something delightfully delectable about edible bunny rabbits. From the finest expensive Swiss chocolates to cheap Peeps and everything in between, I have to admit I indulge in these treats once a year. And as is the case with the costumed human variety, one can discover quirky candy versions of the Easter Bunny. Wishing you and yours a sweet and peaceful Easter.

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