With Easter Sunday nearly upon us, it’s probably time we talk about rabbits. I have a complicated relationship with these admittedly adorable creatures. My first favorite stuffed animal was a floppy-eared bunny I received at Easter. My youngest son, too, has a stuffed bunny that is near and dear to his heart, enough so that when he was younger, there were many nights of frantic searching for “Bunny,” who always managed to disappear at bedtime leaving behind one inconsolable little boy.
And then there’s the Easter Bunny, one of a very few species of mammals to lay eggs, and the only one known to lay eggs filled with candy. This creature is also commonly classified as a rarely seen and likely nonexistent animal (like Big Foot), a creeper sent to spy on naughty children (like the elf on the shelf), or a guy in a scary costume that makes small children cry in the middle of the mall commons (like our favorite jolly fat man).
But where does this strange critter come from? The answer to that may be as hard to find as a favorite stuffed bunny at bedtime (make sure you check outside in the wet grass next to the play set). There are references to the Easter Bunny as early as the 16th century in Germany where it seems likely the tradition was born.
And speculation that rabbits and hares became linked to the holiday because they are the animals most closely associated with the pagan goddess Ostara, traces its roots back to the connection of the goddess with the Christian holiday. That connection was first postulated by the 8th century monk and (practical) historian known as the Venerable Bede, who a lot of scholars now think probably just kind of made it up.
That didn’t stop Jacob Grimm (of fairytale-telling fame) from spreading the rumor in 1835, nor does it slow the annual onslaught of internet claims that Easter is little more than the Christian commandeering of yet another pagan holiday (which, even according to quite a few pagan scholars, it’s not).
But that still doesn’t explain why a bunny brings a basket of eggs, a common symbol of fertility and new life, to hide for the kiddos on Easter. All we really know is that the tradition seems to come out of German Lutheranism in various forms, all involving the hiding of colored eggs by an animal. The species of the egg-bearer varied by region, showing up sometimes as a rabbit, but in other places as a rooster, a cuckoo, a stork, or a fox. Eventually the rabbit won the day. By the time German immigrants began arriving in large numbers in America in the 1700s, they brought the Easter Bunny with them.
But as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I have a complicated relationship with bunnies. On the one hand, they are adorable. And on the other hand, I hate them. Because while the Easter Bunny brings candy, plain ol’ bunnies hippity hop through my neighborhood with impunity.
These monstrous little nose-wigglers descend every spring to destroy my carrot, beet, and lettuce crops, decimate my blueberry bushes, and even nibble the life out of the new little tree shoots that have done nothing to deserve this harsh treatment. The demons dig ankle-spraining holes in my yard (never once having the decency to leave a candy-filled egg inside) and relentlessly taunt my dog who is well-intentioned, but too slow to catch them.
So here’s my proposal. Let’s go back to the Easter Fox. Foxes are shy enough you rarely see them. They’re also kind of cute, but much easier to say no to when your son begs for one as a pet, and they will pretty much leave your beet crop untouched. Also, in the wild, though foxes do not lay eggs (and neither do bunnies, in case you weren’t clear on that), they do tend to steal and occasionally hide them. Also (and I think it’s safe to say this is the most important point) adopting the fox as the official mascot of Easter would effectively put an end to all this “Hoppy Easter” nonsense.
So it just makes sense. Or at least it makes as much sense as the Easter Bunny.
19 thoughts on “Forget the Bunny: A Case for the Easter Fox”
An Easter fox? Somehow it doesn’t have the same poetic ring. On the other hand, having a sneaky snarly fox on the lookout for naughty children might carry a little more clout.
By the way, my vote for most destructive animal is the squirrel, who’s favorite passion is chewing through the vinyl siding to nest in my house where the whole family can gnaw on wood beams to their heart’s content. Ugh!
Yes, squirrels are pretty awful, too. They chewed into my neighbor’s soffits a couple years ago. Fortunately at our house, the squirrels remain pretty wary of our dog. I don’t know why. I think he’s had as much luck catching them as he has with the rabbits, but I’ve definitely noticed an increase in the volume of nuts left ungathered in the yard since Ozzie’s been on patrol.
At the risk of sounding insensitive… we don’t have foxes or squirrels here in New Zealand, but introduced rabbits are a plague. There is the annual “Easter Bunny Shoot” where hunters go out and destroy thousands of them.
In view of your somewhat dubious aspersion about Big Foot’s existence, I’m going to push for an Easter Big Foot instead of an Easter Fox. That way, with the annual arrival of chocolate eggs, there will be no doubt about Big Foot’s existence.
That’s a great idea!
I think the Easter bunny comes from the same place as Haggis; those little critters run rampant in the Scottish Highlands; they have two shorter legs, both on the same side, so that they can easily run around the hills. I’ve heard their calls out in the Scottish Lowlands where I used to live; it’s an eerie sound that sounded suspiciously like a friend…
I’d never heard of this critter! Similar I think to the snipe, a favorite of young campers to hunt late at night in the woods with a flashlight and paper sack.
Ah, except snipes are birds. 😉 Haggis are definitely mammal…
It’s just a shared name. The snipes hunted at summer camp are mammals, similar to your haggis. Well, I think anyway. Come to thinking of it, I’ve never known one to get caught. 🙂
Yep, they’re slippery wee things. 😉
Foxes are vermin and not cute. I won’t describe what our local ones have done to some of our previous chickens, because you ask for comments to be PG. Suffice it to say it proved fatal.
We don’t have the Easter Bunny here, for which many of us are grateful. Easter is associated with chicks and lambs, with the latter ending up on many people’s dining tables tomorrow.
Okay. No foxes then. I don’t raise chickens so don’t tend to have negative encounters with them. Chicks and lambs are big here, too, though our more traditional Easter dish is ham.
haha I love this post so much!! And I hear you about the fox- trouble is, where I live, foxes are more of a problem 😉
Thanks! Yes, I’ve gotten that feedback from others as well. Maybe the cuckoo would be better? I’m flexible.
You’re welcome! hahaha good choice 😉
Thank you, Sarah, for following my blog. I am happy to have come across yours because who can deny the charm of replacing bunnies with foxes. Bring on the foxy lady! Looking forward to more smiles and delightful reads. Cheers.
I’m happy to have found yours, too! Thank you!
what a great site! clever & fun 🙂
your doggie – could double for easter fox, in same outfit, no?
Maybe…not sure he would manage to hide any of the eggs without eating them. 🙂 Thanks for visiting!