jeanine fritz

M aybe I'm over-thinking it, but I just realized we spend a lot of time telling two stories about Easter. We expect one of them to stick, as we reveal the other was a total lie.

The Easter Bunny hops around the night before Easter, wearing pants and carrying a basket of candies and colored eggs -- which he really wants you to have, even though he's gone out of his way to hide them.

Also, Easter is also the day everybody thought Jesus was dead, but he wasn't. He pushed a big rock out of the way and came out of his tomb to talk a little bit with people and then disappeared again into the sky to be with his dad.

We do it at Christmas too: There's a fat man in a big red suit who flies around in a sled pulled by deer, spends an inordinate time hanging out with elves and passes out presents to all the good boys and girls. Also this is the day Jesus was born, he was God's son, and he came to earth to save us all from ourselves. Oh, and just kidding about that Santa thing, that was bullshit.

The more I thought about it this weekend, the more I wondered why every kid wasn't totally confused.

Next weekend is Easter, and in recent years, the tradition amongst my friends has been to dress up, hit a church service and then immediately go to brunch somewhere to break Lent.

And I mean break it. Like put it over our knee and break it.

Did somebody give up cheese? Cool. We're having fondue. Meat? Let's find a steakhouse. Beer? Today, friend, you shall drink ALL the beers. Breaking Lent's gonna be a little tougher this year since I gave up buying things, and Easter isn't exactly a great day for a shopping spree.

So instead of dreaming up all the ways I can break Lent, I've been just thinking about Easter-time traditions and wondering what the rest of the world does.

I found some pretty fascinating ones, such as the smaller, pseudo-Halloween that takes place in Sweden, where little girls dress up like witches and go door to door collecting candy while everyone else lights things on fire to drive witches away. (Those Nordic folk seriously love lighting things on fire, bless their hearts.) The bonfires are lit to scare away the witches who fly to a German mountain to chat with Satan every Easter.

In Greece, Judas is burned in effigy, sometimes using a dummy resembling a modern-day person who's committed a grievous act.

In Bermuda, they fly intricate, colorful kites on Good Friday to honor the Ascension of Christ.

These traditions at least have clear ties to Easter, but the further I went down the Easter Bunny's proverbial rabbit hole, the less it had to do with Jesus.

The bunny is tied to the ancient Anglo-Saxon celebration of the goddess of spring, Eastre, whose symbol was the rabbit. Over time and as it reached different cultures, the springtime rabbit morphed and started delivering eggs, which were forbidden during Lent. The eggs were colored red to represent the blood of Christ, and later green, in celebration of new growth.

Things were going great for the Easter Bunny pretty much across the board until the late '60s. This is when 9-year-old Rose-Marie Dusting wrote a story called, "Billy the Aussie Easter Bilby," usurping the bunny for the Australian bilby, an endangered animal with a long, pointy nose, a swishy tail and rabbit-like ears, whose habitat is wrecked by feral rabbits.

By the '90s, the Easter Bilby was literally fighting armies of rabbits to get candy to children.

Australian parents might have the roughest Easters of all, trying to figure out how to tell the story of Jesus, the environmentally disastrous Bunny Army, and Billy the Aussie Easter Bilby.

But I'd sure like to hear that one.