As mad as a March hare

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FFB market 051With the coming Easter children usually put up us, by the way the logical question, that why the rabbit brings the chocolate eggs and not the hen?
To find the correct answer we have to go back to the ancient Greece where hares, like rabbits and eggs, were fertility symbols. Since birds lay eggs and rabbits and hares give birth to large litters in the early spring, these became symbols of the rising fertility of the earth at the March Equinox. Rabbits and hares are both prolific breeders. Female hares can conceive a second litter of offspring while still pregnant with the first. This phenomenon is known as superfetation. Lagomorphs mature sexually at an early age and can give birth to several litters a year (hence the saying, “to breed like bunnies”). 
Thus knowing all these facts it is not surprising that rabbits and hares should become fertility symbols, or that their springtime mating antics should enter into Easter folklore.

 
But another animals bring their successors into the world at Easter time as well, so why the hell is the sex maniac hare has become the symbol of the fertility? The answer is very simple: because in the ancient folk the birth of the rabbit litters meant for people the end of winter, the rebirth, rejuvenation etc. There is one more question to answer: why the rabbit became the responsible of the distribution of the red egg and not the fox, hen or the stork as they give birth to their litters in March as well? Probably because the rabbits lived near to the man, and they were always liked as a domestic animal, unlike the fox or the hen.

Finishing the thoughts of the Easter rabbit, the essence is, that the children believe it, that like Santa Claus, the rabbit brings a gift secretly to them.FFB market 044

The egg-laying rabbit and the egg painting

The precise origin of the ancient custom of decorating eggs  is not known, although evidently the blooming of many flowers in spring coincides with the use of the fertility symbol of eggs—and eggs boiled with some flowers change their color, bringing the spring into the homes. Many Christians of the Eastern Orthodox Church to this day typically dye their Easter eggs red, the color of blood, in recognition of the blood of the sacrificed Christ (and, of the renewal of life in springtime). Some also use the color green, in honor of the new foliage emerging after the long dead time of winter.

German Protestants wanted to retain the Catholic custom of eating colored eggs for Easter, but did not want to introduce their children to the Catholic rite of fasting. Eggs were forbidden to Catholics during the fast of Lent, which was the reason for the abundance of eggs at Easter time.

The idea of an egg-laying bunny came to the U.S. in the 18th century. German immigrants in the Pennsylvania Dutch area told their children about the “Osterhase” (sometimes spelled “Oschter Haws.Hase” means “hare”, not rabbit, and in Northwest European folklore the “Easter Bunny” indeed is a hare, not a rabbit. According to the legend, only good children received gifts of colored eggs in the nests that they made in their caps and bonnets before Easter. In 1835, Jakob Grimm wrote of long-standing similar myths in Germany itself. Grimm suggested that these derived from legends of the reconstructed continental Germanic goddess *Ostara.

In Britain, the hare was associated with the Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre and whose pagan attributes were appropriated into the Christian tradition as the Easter Bunny. The hare also appears in English folklore in the saying “as mad as a March hare” and in the legend of the White Hare that alternatively tells of a witch who takes the form of a white hare and goes out looking for prey at night or of the spirit of a broken-hearted maiden who cannot rest and who haunts her unfaithful lover.

In Irish folklore, the hare is often associated with Sidh (Fairy) or other pagan elements. In these stories, characters who harm hares often suffer dreadful consequences.

However the Easter rabbit does not bring eggs in France and Belgium, but rather the Easter bells (cloches but Pâques) drop the eggs from the sky.
In England, America on the other hand adults hide eggs in the garden and the children need to hunt them.

Many cultures, including the Chinese, Japanese, and Mexican, see a hare in the pattern of dark patches in the moon; this tradition forms the basis of the Angelo Branduardi song “The Hare in the Moon”.

Decoration 008The hare was a popular motif in medieval church art. In ancient times it was widely believed that the hare was a hermaphrodite. The idea that a hare could reproduce without loss of virginity led to an association with the Virgin Mary, with hares sometimes occurring in Northern European paintings of the Virgin and Christ Child.

The hare was regarded as an animal sacred to Aphrodite and Eros because of its high libido. Live hares were often presented as a gift of love.

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