MEET THE EASTER BUNNY

Meet The Easter Bunny

It was on Good Friday in 1963 that I decided I was going to meet the Easter Bunny. I was only five years old at the time, but I had already figured out just who the Easter Bunny was.

Yet at five I could not figure out why that day was called Good Friday. I was raised in a strict catholic family, so I knew it was the day commemorating the brutal crucifixion of Jesus Christ. So what could possibly be good about it?

A few years later when I made my first communion I learned that in this case the term good meant “pious” or “holy”. Father Ritchie even told me it could be a corruption of “God Friday”.

People were kind of stupid that way.

When I got to Germany years later I discovered the Germans called it “Karfreitag”, Kar being taken from high German kara- meaning “grieve”‚ or “mourn”, and of course Freitag is “Friday”

So it was Mourning Friday. Funny that the Germans got it right.

But in 1963 this was all meaningless to me. I was a little boy on a mission. I was going to debunk the Easter Bunny myth.

And leave it up to those Germans, once again, The Easter Bunny was a German folkloric figure.

Historically, the custom was first mentioned in 1682. Some Germans abstained from eating eggs during Lent. The only way to keep them from being wasted was to boil them. The boiled eggs were then used to break the fast.

Naturally they were a special dish, thus they were decorated as part of the celebrations. Many German Christians even dyed their Easter eggs red, the color of blood, in recognition of the blood of the sacrificed Christ and, of the renewal of life in springtime.

Back in 1963 the Easter Bunny wasn’t just bringing us colored eggs, he was bringing us a basket full of chocolate too. And I had seen through this sweet charade.

Seemingly, it took me forever to get down the wooden stairs in our house. I knew most of the spots where they creaked, and I avoided these traps like my life depended on it, which in my mind, it did! Dad would have killed me if he found me creeping around out of bed this late.

It was way past midnight, and the house had been still for over an hour after Mom and Dad finally went to bed. It was Saturday night, and tomorrow was Easter Sunday, and I was on my way to the family living room.

Yes, I had seen through the Easter Bunny thing they had told us about. I mean seriously, how could a single bunny hit every house in town, and drop off all that candy? How did he even carry it?

I knew Santa Claus could do this, and in the dead of winter too! But we knew Santa had the flying reindeer and the elves to help him. Santa was real; I knew that as a fact. There was magic involved too.

Years later living in Germany I found out that the German “Easter Hare” originally played the role of a judge too, evaluating whether children were good or disobedient in behavior at the start of the season of Eastertide.

The Easter Hare was eventually depicted with clothes. In legend, the creature carries colored eggs in his basket, and sometimes also toys to the homes of children, and as such shows amazing similarities to Santa Claus, or as the Germans called him, Christkind. (Christian Child)

They both brought gifts to children on the night before their respective holidays. Was there a better way to persuade kids to behave?

We were really poor while I was growing up and my parents could never afford all those toys we found under the festively decorated pine tree at Christmas. So even to a five year old, Santa Claus seemed perfectly logical.

But the Easter Bunny? No, I don’t think so.

I knew there was no Easter Bunny, just as there was no Tooth Fairy.

(The year before I had woken up as my dear Mom crept to my bed and carefully removed the baby tooth I had lost, which I had carefully wrapped up in a Kleenex and then she slipped a whole dollar in its place under my pillow.)

No, it was not a miraculous rabbit dropping off candy and eggs to kids. But- I knew who it was.

It was Jesus Christ.

I remember the exact moment when the truth hit me too, I was sitting in the balcony of The French Church during mass just staring at the bright sunshine passing through the gorgeous colored stained windows behind the alter.

It was Good Friday. I was sad, sitting there in church knowing that Jesus was beaten, whipped and crucified on this very day many years ago.

Suddenly it just popped in my head. Jesus was the Easter Bunny.

Well, not really a bunny of course, but HE was the one who passed out all the treats. He wanted to give us sweets on his very special day. The wonderful day he returned!

My mom used to always say that Easter was the holiday that made or broke most Christians. There was no room for a wishy-washy answer here, either Jesus rose again from the dead or he did not.

What an splendid way to celebrate with us kids- give us something as awesome and rare as candy, and we were even allowed to eat some before mass!

Jesus loved children; Mom said it was because we were still pure.

I silently reached the living room, and crept on tiptoes across the floor. I found our closet in the living room, opened the door, and stepped in, not shutting the door completely. I could see out into the living room.

It was ghostly pale, lit only by the light coming in from the street light on the corner. I could see the couch though, and that was important. The baskets always were hidden behind the couch.

I sat down, and waited for Jesus.

I could not wait to meet him. I was a little nervous about surprising him like I had planned, but I had a feeling that he would not be mad at me. From everything I had been told about him in Sunday School and in church, he seemed like a pretty cool guy.

I had a question for him too. Last year my grandfather had died on my birthday. Everyone was so sad, and this on my birthday!

This dying thing really shook me up. The thought that Mom, Dad, my brother and sister would all someday die, and no longer be here at all really scared me bad.

Then I realized that it would happen to me too. The fact that I would someday no longer be here seemed impossible, but I never saw my grandfather again, so it must be true. I could not think about anything else for days after it happened. It was really scary.

I wanted to ask Jesus why we had to die. What was the point of being here at all then? Why couldn’t we just go straight to Heaven, why did we have this detour here on Earth?

I had asked Mom (I could not ask my Dad, he knew a lot about the Red Sox and fixing things and stuff like that, but he did not go to church with us on Sundays.) and Mom had told me we had to be good to get to Heaven.

That sounded pretty bogus to me, that was like Mrs. Hilton from my Kindergarten, she would always promise us a reward for being good, but actually we just did not get slapped, like we did when we were bad. The promised reward never actually came.

But, I also wanted to thank Jesus.

Last year I had been literally run over by a beer truck across the street. It had crushed one of my legs and missed my pelvis by less than an inch, which would have killed me.

I have a vivid memory of lying in a bed in the hospital right after it happened and Mom and Dad were at my bedside.

Mom was hysterical and praying out loud, “Please Jesus, don’t let him die.”

Dad, ever the rock, calmly said, “He is not going to die, and he is not crippled either, he will walk again.”

I was in La La Land. I couldn’t feel anything at all, but I could hear them talking, like it was from far, far away. Mom kept asking Jesus not to take me. Well, he must have listened to her, because I did not die, and I certainly did walk again, and run too.

I felt I really had to thank Jesus for that. I thought walking was pretty great!

I could hear my father’s antique Regulator clock ticking away on the wall behind the TV. I peeked out again then I leaned back against the wall. I did not know what time it was.

Mom and Dad had given me a Timex watch for my birthday, which I thought was tremendous in the beginning, until my mother started telling me to be home at a certain time. She said now that I had a watch, I would always know what time it was. The next day I “lost” the watch at Marches Hill and that was that.

I wondered what Jesus would look like, would he be in a white robe? Did he still have long hair? The beard? How would his voice sound? Deep like my father’s?

I was trying to think of a joke to tell him, because I wanted to hear him laugh. One of the funniest things about grownups was all the different ways that they laughed.

My father had a hearty laugh, which I noticed was much louder when he was with his friends in his furniture repair shop.

My mother giggled more, and would cover her mouth if she laughed loudly.

I had been told that I laughed like a girl, whatever that meant. Someone told me not to worry about it; my voice would change when I started growing a beard. So yeah, Jesus must have a deep laugh.

I waited a long, long time. My thoughts were all over the place, then- they grew weary. My eyes were slowly but surely closing. I had reached that strange and beautiful place we pause in every evening before slipping off into a real deep slumber.

The room was warm, and filled with a dazzling golden light. Jesus had arrived. I did not have to surprise him, he had come to me in the closet.

Turns out, I was too excited to ask him anything. I was cautiously talking to him, (and he was not in white robes, but he was wearing blue jeans and a red flannel shirt) and his smile was the warmest thing I had ever seen.

And then there was his eyes, they were not blue! They were dark brown, and they were so full of life. I was at a age where it was hard to look an adult directly in the eye, but with Jesus, I could not take my eyes off of his.

I began telling him jokes. He laughed and laughed, and so did I.

From far away I heard the sounds of my father’s footsteps heading up the stairs. Then I heard even more footsteps, and muffled voices.

My eyes slowly opened and I saw the crack of light through the closet door from the living room. I was momentarily confused, and I looked around, and found myself alone again.

Then I heard the voices clearly. It was the voice of my mother.

“I won’t ask you again. Where is your brother?”

“You heard her, answer your mother!” That was the voice of my father, and he sounded pretty angry. I quickly sat up straight.

“He said he was going to wait up for the Easter Bunny. He said he knew who it was.”

Now my brother was speaking. I didn’t feel betrayed, I knew, you did not ignore my father when he asked you something.

Besides, I didn’t tell him that the Easter Bunny was really Jesus Christ. I wanted to surprise him. I was going to tell him after I spoke with Jesus.

“Are you kidding me? Well, why didn’t you stop him?”

“I would have, but I fell asleep. But you know how he is when he gets these crazy ideas in his head.”

“So where is he?” Dad asked, and I did not hear the answer.

I assume my brother just pointed at the closet, because seconds later the closet was filled with light as the door slowly swung open.

I sat there, quite scared at first, but the amused looks on their faces calmed me down. Mom, Dad and my brother were standing there smiling away as they looked in at me.

Mom came to the doorway and reached out her hand, and she helped me up. “Well Blaine, did you see the Easter Bunny?”

For a second, I was not even sure. But I was sure of the answer she wanted to hear. “No Mom, I fell asleep.”

“Well then, I guess you don’t know where he hid your nest, now do you. Why don’t you come out and look for your Easter basket.”

I found it behind the couch. By 1964 I knew Mom was the Easter Bunny in our house. She bought the goodies and she hid the baskets.

In Germany I found out that the idea of an egg-giving hare travelled to the U.S. in the 18th century. Protestant German immigrants in the Pennsylvania Dutch area told their children about the “Osterhase” Hase means “hare”, not rabbit, and in Northwest European folklore the “Easter Bunny” indeed is a hare.

And again, according to the legend, only good children received gifts of colored eggs in the nests that they made in their caps and bonnets before Easter.

Eventually, this custom spread throughout the USA, and became nicer along the way, the hare became a cute bunny, the be good or else bit slipped away completely.

And of course, eventually the Easter Bunny had nothing to do with Jesus Christ at all.

That made me sad. In this violent and immoral world we live in, a bit more reflection on the teachings of Jesus could only do us all good.

You did not have to be religious to have spiritual thoughts.

For example, we all should spend more time thinking about Love.

Jesus dealt with many aspects of human life but the one that he spent the longest on was the need for love. His focus was not just on the love for our friends and family, but something much more challenging, a love that is universal.

“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)

I didn’t have anything against the Easter Bunny as a kid, nor do I today. But, I do think I was onto something though in 1963 when I went looking to meet the real Easter Bunny. I still believe I was right too, the Easter Bunny is Jesus Christ.

My brother teased me about the closet incident for a few weeks, but it passed. The memory of the night passed too. I didn’t think about it for years. Kids are much more mindful in their day-to-day doings, and life just kept amazing me and I just kept living it.

Now, half a century later these are the magnificent type of memories that leave me with that warm feeling of having experienced life through the eyes of a child.

How easy it was to believe in anything. How simple it was to get lost in the wonder of it all. And I ask myself, was it a bad thing being told there was such a thing as an Easter Bunny?

I have to say, no. These childhood myths helped prepare me to deal with life as an adult more spiritually.

Let’ face it, Life is intense, and love is sincerely lacking. Being able to believe in the impossible reminds me that the quality of our lives truly depends on the quality of our beliefs.

As a child, I knew instinctively that life was indeed a miracle, a wonder. It was not the near death experience of getting run over by the truck either that woke me up, I did not quite understand how close a call that truly was. I knew there was a God.

I just instinctively knew that life was good. I’m kind of stupid that way.

Now, heading down the home stretch, I find myself feeling the wonder of it all again and again. And every Easter I find myself back in that dark closet, laughing with Jesus and thanking God that I am still alive.

Oster Hase Symbol A church in Paderborn, Germany

HAPPY EASTER

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