(Originally posted April 2 2015)
Why Eggs and Bunnies at Easter?
If glitter is the herpes of the craft world, then food dye is syphilis. It’s not that I’m not crafty – I get a meth high from a Pinterest Board just like every other red-blooded ‘Merican Mom. But I draw the line when that involves my children trashing my shit. I remember the first year that they were old enough to “do it all by myself!” They stumbled around my kitchen like drunken college kids, completely unaware of their surroundings, spreading their craft STIs on every surface in their vicinity. It was that moment that I self-diagnosed OCD, and put an end to the egg-dying love fest until “we could be responsible” about it. Think I’m being too rigid? Well, I don’t care – you weren’t here to clean my walls or buy me a new table. Those of you who are “Amen-ing” me right now probably still have Paas glitter permanently embedded in your polyurethane. (What is that crap made of?)
I found myself dreading this process every year. One glorious year, I managed to avoid it entirely! (they lived, no therapy…) Like most exhausted, overwhelmed parents of small children, the pressure to “be the magic” in my children’s lives got to me. It wouldn’t be so bad if I could do it on my own terms: find my rhythm, set my own tradition. But I send my offspring to this magical land called “school” every day, and those little bastards talk to each other! Suddenly, my measly $1 per tooth meant that the Tooth Fairy hated my kid, because his friends were getting $5s, $10s and $20s. Forget about the Interest Rate, when is the Federal Reserve going to set the National Value of a tooth? We don’t eat a lot of sugar in my house, so I use Easter as a time to stock up on DVDs that they want, which is a very expensive tradition thankyouverymuch. But, the Easter Bunny likes everyone else better, because he brings them a megaton of cheap corn syrup (#Ifailagain.) As for everyone being Irish in March and making cute little leprechaun traps…no…just…NO.
But they are older now, and though I am amazed at how they still can eat a meal and get food all over their face, like a toddler, at 12 and almost 9 years of age (seriously, don’t you feel that? You are almost at dating age. Have some pride) they are now egg-worthy. And this morning I got up to make them a dozen white eggs that I will hand over to them, and then walk away. If you have read any of my other parenting posts, you know that I believe in being hands off, and letting them fend for themselves. And as you can see by my earlier rant, this.does.not.come.naturally.to.me! I have to work at it, and when they became old enough to understand the consequences of ruinin’ my things, I realized that removing myself from the scene of the craft was better for everyone involved.
So why do we even have eggs and bunnies at Easter? I have heard many people muse “what does this have to do with Jesus?” If you ask around, or look it up, you will find an answer like this one on Wikipedia: “Eggs, like rabbits and hares, are fertility symbols of antiquity. Since birds lay eggs and rabbits and hares give birth to large litters in the early spring, these became symbols of the rising fertility of the earth at the Vernal Equinox.” Lame! I am not a Christian, but if I was, I would resent this loose association with Jesus rising from the Dead and Cadbury eggs. After all, it’s easier to push through something challenging when you feel like you are participating in a sacred religious ritual. But egg dying and jelly beans ain’t fasting at Ramadan – it can seem gratuitous, commercialized and yet one more way to make parents have to spend money, feed sugar to their kids, and feel inadequate. Don’t get me wrong, it is, but the real story is much more interesting than you might think.
I said I’m not a Christian – I am a Unitarian Universalist, and in my church, we learn about many of the major religious holidays, and the stories behind them. The best religious history lesson I have learned over the years is that much of the modern Christian religious traditions evolved from Paganism. Yup. In the struggle to convert Pagans to Christianity, early religious leaders took their rituals and rebranded them to fit into the Christian model, so that Pagans would be more comfortable fitting into the Church (read: easier to convert.) It was one of the most powerful PR campaigns in history. So why eggs and bunnies at Easter? Here goes:*
The Pagan goddess Ostara, or Eostre (Easter) was the goddess of springtime. She gave birth to the sun. She brought warmth, and color to the world. One day, a little girl approached her. She had found a small bird on the ground. The ground was still frozen, because Ostara hadn’t finished her work yet, and Spring had not arrived. The bird was injured, cold, and dying. The girl pleaded with the goddess. “Save this little bird, please!” The goddess was annoyed. “I’m busy here!” But the child was persistent. “Please, it won’t take much. Just help bring the bird back to life!” So, the goddess did the fastest magic she could – she turned the bird into a rabbit. The rabbit was stronger, and could hop very far, and had a warm fluffy coat, instead of light feathers like before. So, the bird-bunny hopped away happily. And now, every spring, that bunny remembers that it once was a dying bird, and the gift that Ostara gave her. To return the favor, the bunny lays eggs: colorful, beautiful eggs for the colors of springtime that Ostara brings. And it brings those eggs to the children to honor the child who saved her life.
So, this year, while the smell of vinegar wafts through your house, and you contemplate how you are going to get blue dye off of your hands in time for Easter photos, you can remember that we participate in this sacred ritual because of an ancient Pagan story about a whiny child, and a harried working Mother who just wanted to get her freakin’ job done.
*I would like to thank the Reverend Christina Leone Tracy of the UUCA for letting me tell her version of the Ostara story, one that she created based on several Germanic tales.