Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Easter Skunk?

Published March 23, 2008
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

Happy Easter! I trust the fabled rabbit made his rounds and filled Easter baskets throughout the community. At least, I think that's what he does. The Easter bunny has always been a mystery to me. Having no childhood experience with this particular ball of gift-giving fur, I'm still at a loss as to what he does and what he represents.

Actually, according to my mom, the Easter bunny is a pagan fertility symbol that has nothing to do with the true meaning of Easter, and that is precisely why she never allowed him to visit our house. A little research corroborates her opinion, though the practice of leaving eggs in baskets has more to do with a German custom than Constantine's melding of religion. I can't say I blame her.

My mother's opinions notwithstanding, I can kind of see how a rabbit represents life...or new life. I mean, rabbits do breed like, uh, rabbits. With a gestation period of only 33 days, it's not hard for a rabbit to create a large amount of offspring. If you're going to have a symbol of fertility, the rabbit is the obvious choice.

And there's the song. "Here comes Peter Cottontail, hopping down the bunny trail. Hippity-hoppity, Easter's on its way!" It's catchy, anyway. And since Easter occurs in the spring, the arrival of rabbits on the bunny trail is as good a way as any to herald in the season that heralds in the holiday. (Note: I would like to see a bunny trail. I'm willing to pay for directions within driving distance.)

Still, it could have gone in another direction, entirely. Rabbits aren't the only fertile animals in nature. Actually, a skunk has a shorter gestation period, at 31 days. The gestation period of a mouse is only 19 days. The gestation period of a seahorse can be as short as ten days. I'm not even mentioning various insects that populate the earth in exponential numbers.

Of course, "Here comes Pepe Stinkytail, skulking down the skunky trail," doesn't quite have the ring to it of the other song. And the smell isn't something I'd like to equate with any holiday, though I imagine a forgotten easter egg or two have created something of a skunky frenzy in their day. Mice incite fear in a good number of the population. Seahorses, though they actually lay eggs, aren't really associated with spring. Insects are...well, icky.

Whether you embrace him or discourage him, it looks like that Easter bunny is here to stay. For my part, I figure Easter is about life, so I'll live and let live. I don't have the Easter bunny visit my house, but I enjoy hiding eggs and filling baskets with my kids. In a way, I guess you could say I'm the Easter bunny at my house.

Any and all jokes about my fertility level can just stop right there.