There was a time, during my early childhood, when I thought rabbits laid eggs.For there was a confusing fusion of eggs and bunny rabbits during this time of the year.
This time of Easter.
The time of Easter eggs… and Easter bunnies.
There was one Easter when I got a little colourful bunny made of crockery or something, and it was basically an egg cup.
It was a smiling bunny pulling a little cart in which an egg could be placed… and on that occasion the egg within had a yolk made of marshmallow and an outer shell made of coloured foil.
So, being an astute six-year-old, I simply figured rabbits laid eggs at Easter.
Roger Moroney is an award-winning journalist for Hawke’s Bay Today and observer of the slightly off-centre.
It was not until some years later (I think after I turned about 34 or 35) that I came to realise they do not.
Birds laid eggs.
Oh, and for some reason, turtles.
Bunny rabbits did not lay eggs… except maybe at Easter?
As so it has come to pass that at Easter chocolate bunnies and chocolate eggs emerge from the shop shelves.
There is a symbolic reason for rabbits and eggs at Easter but the chocolate part of the equation came in as part of the purely commercialistic and tempting taste part of the tale.
I mean, if you manufactured and tried to sell little eggs and bunnies formed from compressed broccoli or spinach then best of luck.
We would stage eggs hunts out the back for the kids when they were little, and pretty well every time we’d some across one finely crusted and faded old Easter egg tucked away behind a plot plant or something in early spring.
Always thought there was one more somewhere.
However, uncovering an Easter egg in spring is a very timely thing, because the whole egg issue is traditionally woven around the northern spring, when Easter is celebrated up that way… rather than the autumn we take it aboard.
On that “whole” egg issue note I was slightly miffed to discover that some breeds of chocolate eggs, from the hutch of Cadburys, were nicely wrapped and all that but they were only half eggs.
What was the sense of that?
We wanted whole eggs, which is what we pursued and purchased.
Kids aren’t silly… for had I gone down the half-egg path the easter egg hunt would have ended in the grandkids all bemoaning “where’s the other half?”
The story of the Easter egg is a colourful one… given that history shows that orthodox churches have a tradition of abstaining from them during the fast of Lent.
So to keep them fresh (for use as the fast-breaker) they would boil or roast them.
It seems it was the German Protestants got into the colour thing, by boiling eggs in flower petals to make them change colour… and that tied in with the emerging colours of spring.
I have no idea which religion sparked the tinfoil wrap with pictures of bunny rabbits on them, although I suspect it was a chocolate manufacturer.
And so then, the rabbit.
It is more a folklore symbol of Easter and was the cute little thing the folklorists depicted as being the deliverer of Easter eggs.
There is also a link to German Lutherans, who decided the Easter Hare was a sort of judge… who would decide which children had been good and which had been not-so-good.
The good got the eggs.
I guess the not-so-good got the wrappers.
Turns out the hare became a regular image in medieval church art.
And then there was the fertility thing, for rabbits are prolific at breeding.
And that links in with eggs, and spring again.
For the birds and the rabbits give birth to large litters of eggs and little bunnies in springtime, which has been seen as the time of a rising fertility of the earth at the Vernal Equinox.
Which sort of leaves us out of the picture as we celebrate Easter during autumn.
However, this is a time of year which effectively echoes the weather time of the year in northern parts.
We have the same temperature as London and Paris at this stage, so carrying out the Easter egg hunt is fine and dandy… 20,000km apart.
Which means the egg hunt stagers over there will find the unfound and previously forgotten ones in their early autumn.
Eggs, rabbits and the weather.
These are fascinating times.