Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Year of the Rabbit

Next week, millions will celebrate the Lunar New Year. It marks the end of the Year of the Tiger and the start of the Year of the Rabbit according to the Chinese Zodiac. As usual, the Lunar New Year celebrations will involve much feasting, merry-making and visiting of family and friends.

I thought it might be interesting to take a cursory look at where the RABBIT features in popular culture around the world. I have recorded whatever I can think of ... I'm certain it isn't complete so please do jump in (no pun intended) with what you think I might have missed.

The Easter Bunny

The Easter bunny has its origin in pre-Christian fertility lore. The Hare and the Rabbit were the most fertile animals known and served as symbols of the new life during the Spring season.

Studies suggest the bunny as an Easter symbol originated in Germany, where it was first mentioned in local writings from the 1500s. The first edible Easter bunnies were made in Germany in the early 1800s.The Easter bunny was introduced to American folklore by the German settlers who arrived in the Pennsylvania Dutch country during the 1700s.

In legend, the Easter Bunny brings baskets filled with colored eggs, candy and even toys to the homes of children on the night before Easter. The creature will either put the baskets in a designated place of hide them somewhere in the house or garden for the children to find when they wake up in the morning.

Lucky Rabbit's Foot

In some cultures, the foot of a rabbit, carried as an amulet, is believed to bring good luck. This belief is held by individuals in many parts of the world including Europe, China, Africa, and the Americas.

In Western Europe, prior to 600 BC, rabbits were considered to be sacred, as spirits were thought to inhabit the bodies of animals, and since rabbits spent a lot of their time in underground burrows, it was further believed that the rabbits' bodies were inhabited by numina, underground spirits with whom they communicated at very close proximity! The Celts also held the rabbit to be sacred because of their prowess in reproduction. They believed that the numina intended for rabbits should be put upon pedestals and revered as symbols of rapid procreation, health and prosperity.

Since the rabbit itself was considered lucky, it follows that any of its body parts would also be lucky. People selected the rabbit's foot to tote around for good luck, because of its capacity to dry quickly, its small size, and perhaps the fact that it makes a nice key chain!

Note: Just because this blog is reporting on the lucky rabbit's foot does NOT mean that this blogger is supportive of the practice.

Bugs Bunny

This one needs hardly any introduction. Many of us grew up reading comics or watching TV shows featuring the rascally rabbit, whose catch phrase is "Eh ... what's up doc?".

This highly popular cartoon character first appeared in the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series by Leon Schlesinger Productions, which became Warner Bros Cartoons in 1944. Mel Blanc voiced the original Bugs Bunny, and continued to do so for 49 years till he passed on. Contrary to popular belief, Mel Blanc's last words, while on his death bed, were not "That's all folks!" .

Other cartoon characters that Bugs Bunny is often seen with are Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam, Daffy Duck and Porky Pig.

Watership Down
How many of you remember the book and later movie from the 70s, entitled "Watership Down" ? Written by English author Richard Adams, it was the story of a group of rabbits living in a warren, when one of the younger rabbits named Fiver, who is a seer, receives a frightening vision of the imminent destruction of their precious warren. Fiver and his brother Hazel then try to persuade the chief rabbit of the danger, but are ignored. They then set out on a journey to find a new home, facing various trials and tribulations along the way. 

The movie was an impressive work of animation, and featured the beautiful theme song "Bright Eyes" sung by Art Garfunkel. Here is a videoclip so that you can enjoy the scenes and song.

"Watership Down" was one of my favourite animated movies of the 70s. I believe this seemingly simple story can be appreciated at different levels. At the most basic level, it is simply a story of a bunch of animals and their struggles. However many people have offered different shades of interpretation of this tale, which has elements of exile, survival, bravery, political responsibility and "the making of a hero and a community". Some have even compared it to the epic Greek poem "The Odyssey".

Energizer Bunny
Remember the television ads for Energizer batteries? There was this cute, pink bunny who could go on and on and on and on ..... :-)

White Rabbit sweets
This is a popular brand of candy manufactured in China, that many of us have enjoyed in our younger days (maybe even now!). It is white in colour, has a chewy, sticky texture and is wrapped by an edible rice paper wrapping.

Playboy Bunny
Finally, we have the famous Playboy Bunny, symbol of quality reading for discerning gentlemen over generations ...  LOL .... 'Nuff said.

Well, look at this recent news snippet I found ...

London Playboy casino set for 2011
The iconic brand is due to return to London with a massive club and casino.
Playboy Enterprises Inc. announced plans to open a new Playboy branded club and casino in London in early 2011. The planned venture will sit in the exclusive Mayfair neighbourhood of the capital and feature a restaurant, lounge, table games area and high-limit private casino gaming rooms. It's not the first time Playboy have set up such a casino in the UK, having run venues in London, Manchester and Portsmouth in the 60s.
The iconic brand currently owns only one club and casino, situated in Las Vegas, and the new Mayfair premises will certainly have a touch of the Las Vegas glamour to it. With private gaming rooms and casino table games such as roulette, blackjack and poker, as well as the lounge and restaurant, the club will certainly attract high rollers and casino fans.
The Playboy casino and club in Las Vegas is situated in the Palms complex, which houses ten restaurants and six bars and nightclubs, as well as a 95,000 square foot casino. The Playboy casino itself has nine blackjack tables and one roulette table inside the club.

Certainly well timed for the Year of the Rabbit  ... 

Well, a HAPPY AND PROSPEROUS LUNAR NEW YEAR to all who celebrate it, and for all others HAVE A GREAT HOLIDAY.