Bad hare day? Not Easter.

One year when I was a little boy, the Easter Bunny left a basket for me in the dryer in our house’s basement. Another year my basket was left dangling from a branch high enough in the willow tree in our back yard that it seemed likely the Easter Bunny had encountered the same space alien who had turned heiress Nancy Archer into a woman 50 feet tall in the fittingly titled, 1958 science-fiction classic, “Attack of the 50 Foot Woman.”
Year after year, it seemed, the Easter Bunny would find ingenuous places to leave my brother’s and my baskets, always sending us off on lengthy trails of clues that would begin just outside our bedroom doors. The clues, before I could read, were small pictures drawn in pencil: A stove. A couch. Something that looked a lot like a spider, but turned out to be the willow tree in our yard when drawn by a rabbit that lacked opposable thumbs.
Meanwhile, some of my other friends had Easter egg hunts. Or they had baskets waiting for them in their kitchens or living rooms.
In this regard, the Easter Bunny was far more like the Tooth Fairy than Santa Claus. Santa Claus seemed to offer pretty much the same drill to every house on the block: On Christmas Eve, after everyone was asleep, he would deposit presents by the family’s Christmas tree. There wasn’t, it seemed, a lot of room for improvisation.
But the Easter Bunny, just like the Tooth Fairy, seemed to have different traditions at different houses. Why did the Tooth Fairy leave some kids a dime for every tooth, while other kids got a quarter? Why did some kids get a trinket instead of a coin? Moreover, no two parents had quite the same explanation for what the Tooth Fairy did with all those teeth that mysteriously disappeared in the night. The most interesting response? A friend of my daughter’s told her that her parents said the Tooth Fairy used their teeth as roofing tiles.
Certainly there was a commonality to the baskets: Chocolate and jelly beans were going to be lying amidst the artificial grass. And, yes, the Easter Bunny was going to reveal a certain amount of uncharacteristic self-absorption by leaving us chocolate bunnies we would joyfully consume. (Which, just for the record, brings me to artist Cosimo Cavallaro’s completely naked, anatomically correct, 6-foot tall statue of Jesus Christ on the cross made entirely of chocolate. The artwork, titled “My Sweet Lord,” had to be hidden away this past week soon after it was unveiled in Manhattan because so many people were offended. I was disappointed because I hate to see artwork censored. But I also can’t imagine that anyone who has endured the pain of crucifixion, whether he is a petty criminal or humankind’s savior, would want to be reduced to a bad pun. In addition, I hate to see food wasted — especially chocolate.)
In any case, the Easter Bunny seemed to approach us all in a fashion that was unique to our families.
And perhaps that is the beauty of the tradition, and one of the reasons why I love the holiday. The hare can ad-lib, which is a vitally important talent if your holiday occurs in the very first weeks of spring. To wit: Santa knows, more or less, what to expect in terms of weather. It’s December. He knows how to dress. But the Easter Bunny? Well, this year there was snow in Vermont only days after the crocuses had started to bloom in my yard and it had been warm enough to resume biking. Some Easters it’s 60 degrees here in Lincoln. Other years there have been blizzards.
As a result, Easter is a holiday in which the unexpected is always a part of the ritual. You hunt, you find, you open. You’re surprised.
There are a lot of reasons why I’m a Christian, but certainly the wonder and reassurance that come with Easter morning are a big part of it.
Happy Easter. Happy Passover. Peace.
(This column originally appeared in the Burlington Free Press on April 8, 2007.)

Chris Bohjalian
Chris Bohjalian

Chris Bohjalian is the author of eighteen books, including his forthcoming novel, The Guest Room. His other novels include the New York Times bestsellers Midwives, The Sandcastle Girls, and The Double Bind.

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