After much nagging from me, J sends me an email yesterday with this:
Easter is behind us now, and as a wise man once said sometimes you have to put your behind in your past.
Unfortunately, as another wise man once said—a different one, I swear—my fellow Americans, we are some kind of fat. Putting our behinds anywhere is going to be a challenge.
Easter is probably one of the most confused holidays of the year as people who are not religious suddenly feel compelled to take the seats and parking spaces of regular attendees at churches, families come together for a Sunday dinner that is not eclectic so much as confused and kids try once again to pretend for the sake of their parents that they are idiotic enough to believe that somewhere in the world there is a giant rabbit who defecates chocolate eggs.
In the run up to Easter this year, I read a fascinating story from the Associated Press about why Easter has not become as commercialized as Christmas. The major premise being that both Christmas and Easter are religious holidays, but whereas Santa Clause has firmly pushed baby Jesus out of the manger, the Easter Bunny can’t seem to move the adult version off the cross.
The author ultimately concluded that Americans must feel a certain reverence and respect for the Easter season, since it is the bulk of foundational Christian theology, that they maybe do not have for Christmas because…well, the article started to fall apart.
As an analysis of the culture wars, I found it interesting. I suppose the next time a Jerry Falwell type gets worked up into a lather over abortion, gay marriage, Hollywood smut or pornography, we can fire back with, “Hey look pal, at least you’ve been able to keep the Easter Bunny from being culturally relevant, so smoke on your pipe and put that in or whatever.”
I actually think the reason the Easter Bunny is not as culturally relevant as Santa Clause is because, if you’ll pardon my diversion into crass literality, the Easter Bunny just plain doesn’t make any sense.
As a story, Santa Clause holds together nicely. He lives up in the North Pole with a group of elves who make toys for good little girls and boys. Once a year, on Christmas Eve, which is conveniently ALWAYS DECEMBER 24, he loads everything into a sleigh and leaves it under a Christmas tree and children all over America wake up on December 25 to a bunch of cheap plastic crap from China that will be mostly broken or forgotten about by December 26.
Like any mythology, there are holes in the story, but these have been nicely filled in over the years by an increasing body of Santa Clause literature in either books or television specials with stop-motion puppets voiced by Fred Astaire.
The Easter Bunny doesn’t have this kind of operation and it shows. Somewhere, someone needs to take the whole concept back to the drawing board and address the following areas of believability.
Santa Clause is always male, always about six feet tall, always old, always morbidly obese, and always speaks in a tone of voice that suggests he’s had a little too much egg nog as he asks you what you want for Christmas. It’s comforting that whether you are watching a movie on AMC or in a shopping mall in Ashland, Ohio, Santa Clause will always be a certain way.
No such standards exist for the Easter Bunny.
In real life, bunnies never get too big to hold in your arms if you are into that sort of thing. In some of the movies, they maintain this size, while in other movies the bunny is larger than the children but smaller than the adults or larger than everyone.
Growing up, my mother always taught me that the Easter Bunny was huge and he might break the steps on the front porch on his way up. Given the state of our front porch, I believed her, but in my defense I was five.
In shopping malls and other venues, the bunny is always big but the gender of the rabbit is open to question as I have seen some shopping mall bunnies with curves that suggest they moonlight in that other career opportunity for our fleet footed brethren.
Sometimes bunnies talk and sometimes they don’t. This causes a lot of confusion since, unlike Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny does not have a back story or an approved script. What’s the Easter Bunny version of “ho ho ho!” It’s not there.
Other places go for realism and show kids an actual bunny that they claim is the Easter Bunny, but if I’m a child in America watching this animal with a clear case of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, I am likely going to feel cheated.
At Christmas, it’s simple. Gifts are always toys (unless you count Uncle John’s box of socks and underwear he sends every year) and they always come wrapped and either under or around the tree.
Easter is confused. Sometimes there is a basket, sometimes there isn’t. Some people give candy, some people give toys. And the baskets go…well I guess it depends on your house or apartment.
But if you got your kid as far as believing there was an Easter Bunny in the first place, the gifts are where the whole thing falls apart, because whereas the idea of an old man producing toys in a factory in the North Pole populated by elves that you can’t see is somewhat believable, only the most gullible of children are going to believe the connection between bunnies and eggs.
I do not know why we are surprised that kids in America fail at science when we spend the early years of their childhood convincing them that somehow a rabbit produces not only eggs, but chocolate eggs at that.
And yet every spring we fill baskets with chocolate eggs and that god awful green plastic grass that gets caught in the wrappers and in our rugs in such a way that no vacuum cleaner can extract it, and we bemoan the rising levels of obesity and diabetes in this country while scratching our heads as to the cause.
At the end of the day, perhaps that’s what will make Easter as culturally relevant as Christmas, because whatever the differences, whatever the faults, whatever the holes in the mythology, the two holidays have a common purpose in filling and expanding our physical presence and make us, in the words of the aforementioned wise man, some kind of fat.
Now who wants pie?