Easter 1977 stands out as my family’s most memorable celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I’ll bet it’s still a salient Easter memory in the minds of another family.
We lived in Kearns back then. It was our first home in a nice neighborhood, where we expected to raise our young daughter and get to know everyone.
On that most special of all Christian Sundays, neighbor kids prepared to hunt Easter eggs in their backyard alongside a live white bunny wearing a pink bow.
Just as the hunt was ready to kick off, our husky-Lab mix jumped the fence and tore this Easter bunny to bloody pieces in front of them.
Oh, stop. Both the dog and the rabbit were merely following their natural instincts. Chomper was born to be predator. The rabbit was born to be food.
Like I said, it was an Easter to remember. It was also — or so I thought — a symbolic Christian message worth sharing.
As our daughters appeared on the scene, my daughters celebrated Easter the traditional way — with boiled chicken embryos, chocolate rabbits the size of mules, decorated loot baskets and new dresses. Oh, and church.
My wife — a sensible woman despite marrying me — forbade the telling of an important Easter story that I would like to see become part of the ritual. That Chomper had killed the Easter Bunny back in ’77, and, as a result, eggs at our house were in fact delivered by a specially resurrected rabbit.
I realize that this isn’t approved religious doctrine. I’m in good company, though. None of major religions’ holiest of texts mentions an egg-laying rabbit. There’s plenty of crazier stuff in them, to be sure, but not that.
Easter is a pagan celebration incorporated into Christianity ages ago, way before even disco. It’s named after the pagan goddess Eostre (Ishtar), who was worshipped centuries before Jesus.
How pagan rituals were rolled into Christianity makes Easter problematic. At first glance, a newcomer might wonder if it was rabbits that killed Jesus, and that chocolate is a sacrament of sorts.
Yes, I know. Chocolate is a sacrament to some people. No offense was intended.
The point is that Easter, as it’s recognized today, is a huge mess of rites and rituals borrowed/invented by various cultures that had nothing to do with Christianity.
The egg is reportedly an ancient symbol of new life, which Christians appropriated as representing the resurrection. It follows then that jelly beans, another Easter staple, should be regarded as holy rabbit droppings.
Some say the idea of the Easter Bunny arrived in America during the 16th century, fetched here by German immigrants who had a fanciful tradition of an egg-laying hare.
It caught on fairly quickly. In 1878, U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes made egg rolling practically a national ritual in which children rolled colored eggs across the White House lawn.
Some see this as symbolic of the stone being rolled away from Jesus’ tomb; others see it as the effects of hallucinogens. Anyway, only a U.S. president could think up something like that.
For me, Easter is the perfect religious holiday, given that irony is one of religion’s greatest tenets.
Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.