Once again, we have a question without a specific context that I remembered to write down. I do remember that my son was talking excitedly about Easter, particularly since the tradition from my wife’s side of the family is that you get presents at Easter. Unlike my side of the family, where you just get a lot of candy. And I think we may have just watched a movie about the Easter Bunny as well. And that’s when he asked me:
“How big is the Easter Bunny?”
Which is, when you get right down to it, a good question. I mean, he’s got a handle on how big Santa Claus is, and how big the reindeer are, and on the size of a leprechaun and a turkey and so forth. But the Easter Bunny? Not really. And I’m not sure either – is he (or she, for that matter) human-sized, or the size of a regular rabbit. Making him the size of a regular rabbit seems to present some logistical difficulties for delivery, but then again we’re talking about a magic rabbit that delivers candy. If we can accept that, then we can accept the ability of a rabbit-sized rabbit to do the work.
Why is there an “Easter Bunny”?
This is one of those questions that doesn’t have a specific answer. There’s lots of theories, but no “smoking gun” that tells us where the Easter Bunny came from in the first place. Wikipedia says that “Originating among German Lutherans, the “Easter Hare” originally played the role of a judge, evaluating whether children were good or disobedient in behaviour at the start of the season of Eastertide.” History.com builds on this a little, stating;
According to some sources, the Easter bunny first arrived in America in the 1700s with German immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania and transported their tradition of an egg-laying hare called “Osterhase” or “Oschter Haws.” Their children made nests in which this creature could lay its colored eggs.
When trying to dig further into this, I found any number of unsourced claims that the Osterhase tradition ties into Mother Holda or Ostara, claiming the rabbit (and, frequently, eggs) as symbols of these goddesses. The Catholic Encyclopedia concurs to a degree – it doesn’t make mention of Germanic/Teutonic mother goddesses attended by armies of torch-bearing rabbits, but it does state that “the rabbit is a pagan symbol and has always been an emblem of fertility”. So, despite a paucity of discoverable online primary sources, it seems quite reasonable to assume that the Easter Bunny is a co-opted pagan tradition.
How big is the Easter Bunny, then?
“Osterhase” means “Easter Hare” in German, and from what I can find the most common hare in Germany is Lepus europaeus – the brown (or European) hare. This animal ranges from 24 to 30 inches (60 to 75 cm), has long ears with black tips, and yellow-brown to grey-brown fur with grey underbellies. They lead a solitary lifestyle, except during mating seson, and are nocturnal. They can also run up to 35 mph in a straight line, and can swim well if need arises.
So how big is the Easter Bunny. Well, assuming it’s a larger than ordinary member of the species, it could be as much as three feet long. It’s probably delivering only one basket at a time, though, so it’s a good thing he’s fast.
Oh, European hares are also coprophagous, consuming eating their “green, soft fecal pellets” to maximize the nutritional content of the vegetation they consume. So, you may want to look askance at any green jelly beans you get in your basket this year.