A peep of a cottontail

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By John Pawlak

There’s an old joke about a farm boy who sneaks into the chicken coop one night and paints all the eggs different bright colors.
 The next morning when the rooster walks in, he sees all the colored eggs.  The rooster promptly storms outside the coop and kills the peacock.
Easter is a fascinating holiday, full of tradition, folklore and calories.  Despite its religious significance, its history is entrenched in myth and ritual, the most prominent of course being a Harvey-like rabbit that sneaks into your house at night to leave chocolate and eggs for your kids.  
Kind of like that creepy old guy up north who knows when they’re sleeping, knows when they’re awake.
 Of course, Easter holds deep meanings and convictions for many people.  It’s a wonderful time for the family to get together, feast on the Easter ham or Easter lamb (anyone up for Easter tofurkey?), and enjoy each other’s company.  It’s also a time for high fructose corn syrup makers to smile as they watch a nation gorge itself on processed sugar infused imitation chocolate.
 When I was a kid, I would get all sorts of chocolate items in my Easter baskets.  Yeah, baskets.  With Aunts and Uncles all vying to win favor with the kiddies, we’d each get six to eight baskets a year.  At the time, I just figured the bunny guy liked me a lot.  My father used to tell us that the chocolate malt balls were bunny droppings.  I think he was trying to get us to discard those for him.
 It didn’t work.  If it’s chocolate, kids will eat anything.
 The question I hear each year is, “Which part of the bunny do you bite off first?”  Well, we used to get chocolate crucifixes (you can still find these for sale on the Internet).  So the real question that faced us each year was, “Do we bite off his feet first or go for the head?”
Did you know that the Puritans rejected celebrating Easter?  Knowing what a fun bunch of guys they were, I was fairly surprised to learn this.
 Easter is of course a very religious holiday.  So why all the pomp and chocolate circumstance?  A giant rabbit hopping down the bunny trail?  Colored eggs?  Chocolate and jelly beans?  Seriously, how did all this come about?
 Well, Constantine (a guy almost as much fun as the Puritans) established the date of celebration at the Council of Nicaea in 325 as the first Sunday following the first full moon after the vernal equinox.  Didn’t these guys ever make anything simple?  Why not the third Sunday before the second Thursday prior to the fourth full moon after the Winter Solstice, give or take a few weeks?
 The festivities of course stem from pagan rituals, which is a good thing.  If you want to have fun, very little beats a good pagan ritual.
 The coming of Spring revels in the welcoming of life, hence the popularity of boiled eggs.  Raw eggs might be more apropos to represent life, but kids just don’t seem to enjoy them as much.  Fish eggs would likewise have been a reasonable choice, but coloring them is really difficult.
 Even the name “Easter” originates from the pagan Saxon goddess Oestre (Eastre), the goddess of dawn and Spring.  The story goes that Oestre turned a bird into a rabbit (Lepus), but Lepus was unfaithful (after all, rabbits do run around) and was cast into the sky as a constellation.
Ah, but what would Easter be without marshmallow peeps?  The true apex of civilization can be experienced by joining the millions who enjoy a truly verdant tradition, that of nuking a peep.  Yes, this Easter, revive a good old Druid custom and sacrifice a marshmallow peep to the gods of dielectric heating.  Put the little guy on a dish, set the microwave power to high, and watch the true miracle of life spring before your eyes.
 Go ahead.  Nuke a peep.  (Just ignore the little high pitch screaming.  It won’t last long.)
 Oh, and by the way, I always bit the hands off first.  It just seemed the right thing to do.
 John Pawlak
Los Alamos Columnist