Even though the countdown to Easter Sunday is supposed to commence immediately following Ash Wednesday, it really begins when unsold hordes of chocolate Cupids at Wal-Mart are finally exchanged for countless herds of chocolate rabbits.
Even though it’s the most sacred of Christian holidays, I’ve always wondered how it came to be associated with bunnies, ducks, and chicks? I was always amazed at how happy those little animals seemed, considering that giving baby ducks and chickens to my brothers and I was tantamount to a barnyard death sentence.
And while we’re on the subject, what kind of genetic freak rabbit lays eggs, anyway? Just askin’.
Equally mystifying is trying to figure out when exactly Easter Sunday falls. Thanksgiving is easy, Christmas is simple, and everyone knows New Years Eve is, well, the night before New Years Day. But Easter...? Well, it ain’t as simple as all that.
Based on occurrence of the last full moon during leap year when the vernal equinox is on a Wednesday and the moon is in its summer house and Jupiter aligns with Mars, I always knew exactly when Easter Sunday was: either March or April. If I was still a little befuddled, I could look at the calendar we got for Christmas from our insurance agent. Or, I could always consult my trusty “Magic 8 Ball.”
In any event, Easter was a glorious time of year, which started off with the traditional coloring of the Easter Eggs.
Beginning with stern admonitions from my father to make sure we didn’t get dye all over the $20 table he bought at Railroad Salvage, our dipping of hen fruit in colored vinegar water rituals started out serenely enough. Until they degenerated into sloppy free-for-alls where we got more dye on each other than on the hard-boiled eggs.
Satisfied with our work (and out of dye), we then proceeded to seed our garishly colored prizes throughout the house in preparation for a family hunt the next day. Nothing was off-limits as we deposited eggs in the most obscure places, all the while listening to our father rather pompously proclaim that he would find the most eggs and make the finest egg salad in all the land.
Unfortunately, nobody ever kept track of how many eggs were hidden or where they were laid. This resulted in an incomplete tally during the hunt, but we didn’t mind. We had loads of other goodies with which to stuff ourselves.
Nope, no worries. Until the dog found an especially pungent bearded egg behind the stereo on Labor Day.
Eggs festively decorated and scattered throughout our home, our excitement reached a fever pitch as we knew that, come the dawn, we’d tumble down the stairs to see what the Easter Bunny had brought us. A sort of off-season reenactment of the Christmas frenzy, Easter morn was a candy gorge-fest which propelled us into a frenetic sugar buzz not seen since December 25th.
As we grew a little older, there wasn’t candy so much as other gifts (again, sort of a mini-Christmas), all cheerfully given by the mysterious Easter Bunny. But, it remained an orgy of “gimme, gimme, gimme” all the same.
I never could figure out the Easter Bunny’s deal. Unlike Santa Claus, who slid his chubby little keister down a chimney (I refused to wrap my brain around what he did in homes without chimneys), Mr. Bunny (it never seemed proper to just call him “Easter” or “The”) seemed content with your basic, garden-variety breaking and entering. Like relatives, he just showed up from out of nowhere.
We never left cookies and milk out for him (by the way, it was always “him” in the sexist 1960s) and we never tried to stay awake to watch him deliver our presents. Like the milkman, we just figured he’d automatically come through.
Hmm, come to think of it, did that mean we didn’t trust Santa, considering we always wanted to remain awake to see him place our toys under the tree? But, I digress...
Speaking of a tree, the occasion of Easter didn’t offer up a central location for the rabbit to dump his loot. I guess my parents were content to let him drop them wherever he found room.
As far as Easter baskets went, he had quite a haul to carry, considering he was delivering to millions of children. The good news is that he only had to worry about Christian kids unlike Santa, who pretty much had the whole shebang (especially those starving kids in China).
My point is that, while Jolly Saint Nick had a reindeer-drawn sleigh, what’d the Easter Bunny have? That’s right-nothing. He couldn’t even rent a Pacer, so he had to haul everything around on his back.
No wonder he never went “Ho! Ho! Ho!”
Especially when we were little, our baskets overflowed with all manner of sweets. Sure, there were the proverbial candy Easter eggs (also known as chocolate “footballs” at Christmas. What truly versatile candies!) and jelly beans, but my favorite had to be the chocolate (milk or white) bunnies.
What kid didn’t delight in first lopping off the hapless candy rabbit’s ears-“Look, Mom, a squirrel!”? This confectionary mutilation was then joyfully followed by the rabbit’s ritual decapitation, leaving only a headless lump. Indeed, what a sad end for a creature whose only crime was being placed in a drugstore candy aisle a few days before.
I remember always being disappointed that my bunnies were hollow. I would have much preferred they’d be solid, although I probably would have broken my teeth gnawing on a fifteen pound hunk of chocolate. But, on the bright side, I’d have had enough sugar to keep me buzzing until Columbus Day.
Licking our lips as we finished savaging our Brer Rabbits (or the equally delicious Lucky Ducks), we then turned our attention to the little chocolate-covered rabbit/duck/chick marshmallows and the yellow sugar balls known as Peeps.
As we sadly hit the bottom of our baskets, we knew exactly what to do with the black licorice jelly beans and candy-coated almonds: fling them at our little brother.
Our mouths ringed in melted chocolate, our teeth encrusted with Peeps detritus, and our vision blurred, we blearily glanced at the clock above the television. Wow, not even eight o’clock.
Or, in other words, as our mother cheerfully announced from the kitchen, “Okay, kids, breakfast!”
Yippee! I’m cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs!
Next: All This and Ben Hur