Why does the English language have a bunny (KONIJN) for Easter and why is it a hare (HAAS) in all other languages? Very relevant questions that Anne-Marie posed on the day that the musical The Passion wound its way through the streets of The Hague.
In Germany the PAASHAAS is called ‘Osterhase’ and in France ‘Lièvre de Pâques’. The myth of the PAASHAAS originated in seventeenth century Germany. The German furry animal was believed to paint and decorate eggs and hide them in the garden or hang them in trees. German kids would then go out on Easter Sunday and look for the eggs. This myth was not introduced into the Netherlands until 1825, when a translation of the German children’s book ‘Ostereier’ (‘Paaseieren’, ‘Eastereggs’) was published.
So why a HAAS, hare? And not a chicken or a mouse, for instance. Because ‘hares’ are such delightfully prolific breeders. Because they build nests in the meadows. Because they give birth to large litters in early spring. Because they have been symbols of fertility for so much longer than Christianity. Because they are so cuddly and lively…
And why did not the Europeans use the word for the equally cuddly and fierce breeder KONIJN, rabbit? Why not PAASKONIJN? Because like Coca Cola the bunny is an American invention. On its long way across the Ocean the word ‘hare’ was forgotten by the immigrants and the ‘bunny’, a much, much fuzzier and cuddlier word, took its place. Bunny is so much more attractive to Americans because it is a diminutive form for young and small animals. Cute!
By the way… did you know that rabbits were originally Spanish animals and that they were called ‘coneys’ in English until the 18th century. Ha, that explains the name ‘Coney Island’ in New York. ‘Coney’ is clearly related to ‘KONIJN’. HAAS, hare borrows its name from a very old word meaning ‘grey’.
Because we could not find a grey PAASHAAS we asked Avril’s black and friendly dog Buffy to be this year’s egg-concealer. So if you behaved decently and practiced your Dutch frequently, you were given your chocolate eggs from Buffy, our PAASHOND.