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Turkey on Thanksgiving, Rabbit on Easter, Says Preacher

April 16, 1990

ST. LOUIS (AP) _ A preacher who says the Easter Bunny is nothing more than a pagan icon served barbecued rabbit to the needy, hoping to shift the focus to the true meaning of the Christian holiday.

″Just like turkey is served on Thanksgiving, I would like to see rabbit served in homes across America every Easter,″ said the Rev. Larry Rice, director of the New Life Evangelistic Center in St. Louis.

Rice came up with the idea to attract more attention to the original meaning of Easter, a Christian holy day that celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the promise of everlasting life.

″The Easter Bunny is tremendous competition to that message,″ Rice said Monday. ″We like to think of ourselves as a Christian nation, but our focus on a mystical rabbit is really paganistic.″

The New Life Center, a privately operated shelter for the poor in downtown St. Louis, bought 604 rabbits to serve on Easter Sunday, Rice said, primarily because they were cheaper than beef or pork.

People who came to the Easter dinners didn’t have to eat rabbit if they didn’t want to, Rice said.

About 500 people could choose from grilled rabbit, sauteed rabbit, rabbit cacciatore, turkey or ham.

″The majority of people ate rabbit, but that’s partly because we only cooked 10 turkeys,″ said Ruth Powell, a volunteer at New Life who planned the dinner. ″I was surprised by the number of people that wanted the rabbit.″

Yvonne Dozier, seated at dinner with her 8-month-old baby, James, didn’t have a problem eating rabbit.

″It’s great,″ she said, tearing into her dinner. ″There ain’t no such thing as the Easter Bunny, and I ain’t no kid. This is just food - good food,″ she said.

In Kansas City, about 200 people were given a piece of chicken and a piece of rabbit.

Rice said he’s received some calls from people who canceled their plans to make donations to his shelter. One woman called to complain about the psychological counseling children were going to need because of his idea.

But he said overall, response was positive.

″I’m toying with another idea for later this year. There’s a lot of hunting for deer around Christmas and we might take advantage of that and serve white-tail deer, mule deer, even reindeer,″ Rice said.

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