It’s that time of year again…the Triduum. It’s the time we enter in to some of the richest liturgical experiences of the year. It’s the core celebration of the central mystery of our faith – the Paschal Mystery. Or, as one of my Facebook seminarian friends called it “the intergalactic Victory lap of the Church militant, suffering, and triumphant for all time” (told you he was a seminarian).
Yes, it is all those beautiful things…but for a Catholic family with young children it’s also the time of year for the awkward discussion I most dread with my children: The Time of the Easter Bunny.
We work very hard on getting an answer the question, “What do we do at Easter?” that at least mentions Jesus, the Resurrection, tombs, salvation, etc instead of bunnies, eggs, and candy. My kids go to Catholic school. Catholic…in other words, the school is reinforcing this understanding of Easter with stations of the cross, Resurrection garden projects, and Lenten and Easter prayers. School…in other words, they have Easter parties (before Lent is over) with eggs, baskets, loads of jelly beans, and discussions among the other kids about the Easter Bunny.
Now, I want to make an important clarification. A lot of families who are anti-Easter bunny are also anti-Santa. Not so for our family! I love Santa and everything he stands for. I love helping my kids make the connection between Santa and St. Nicholas. I love the message of unadulterated generosity that Santa stands for (no elf on the shelf in my house, Santa gives presents just because he loves you and wants to give you something that will make you happy…just like God!). I love connecting the hopeful anticipation of the Advent season in our Church with the building excitement children experience as we approach Christmas. I love Christmas and I love Santa.
But the Easter bunny? I can’t find a single legitimate connection to our faith or to the liturgical calendar between Easter Sunday as a celebration of Christ’s Resurrection and the Easter Bunny. It’s more than that though – there’s something more deep seated and disturbing about my distaste for the rabbit.
With Santa, you know what you’re getting. Every picture of him is the same – he’s a fat man in a red suit with a white beard. Even the stories are the same – how does he get into your house? Why, it’s magic! Magic that opens locked doors, expands the size of chimneys and makes reindeer fly.
The Easter bunny? Sometimes he walks on two legs, sometimes he hops on all four. Sometimes he’s man-sized, sometimes he’s rabbit-sized. Sometimes he’s a real rabbit, sometimes he’s a cartoon-like version of a rabbit. Sometimes he’s snarky and funny like Bugs, sometimes he’s cute and fluffy like Peter Cottontail. There’s just no consistency to help the belief in the legend.
The Mall Bunny
Visiting Santa at the Mall, writing him letters – these are all a part of the Christmas experience that reinforces the magical belief and wonder that I often envy in children. The Mall Easter Bunny…I could write volumes on the horror that is the Mall Easter Bunny. But, a picture is worth a thousand words so…
Need I say more?
That’s not to say we don’t engage in the Western Easter traditions at our house…we decorate eggs, we do Easter baskets complete with chocolate and jelly beans. We hunt for eggs on Easter morning. We have a huge Easter dinner with the family including a ham, cheesy potatoes (Mom, if you are reading this, don’t forget the cheesy potatoes) and salad. We don’t have dessert because we’re all on a sugar overload from hollow chocolate bunny ears, robins eggs (I still pretend the blue ones are lipstick) and jelly beans.
But the Easter Bunny is a struggle every year. I don’t want to tell my kids the Easter Bunny doesn’t exist – because I don’t want them spreading that around school. I’d be royally pissed if my son came home talking about how Johnny told him Santa isn’t real, so I’m trying to afford other parents (who do care about the Easter Bunny) the same courtesy.
In the past years, my kids never questioned who hid the eggs or who gave them the Easter baskets – and in some ways I long for the bliss of that ignorance. But, alas, the “friend influence factor” has reared it’s head and along with informing me that sticking your middle finger up means a bad word, my first grader is learning all about the Easter bunny.
But I won’t encourage the Easter Bunny belief the way I do when it comes to Santa. Because the inconsistencies, the disconnect between this tradition and our faith and that freaky ass mall bunny mean the Easter Bunny is just not believable. It’s not a sustainable legend or worthwhile legend which means the first thing to get questioned is going to be that damn bunny – and once the belief in the bunny goes…I’m afraid Santa’s not far behind.
And really – that’s the biggest reason I don’t like the Easter Bunny – because the questions he’s bringing up in our house mean that for our oldest, our complete and wholehearted Santa Christmases are numbered.
For now, I’m going to be honest. I’ll tell my son that I don’t like the Easter Bunny because I don’t think the rabbit understands that Easter is really about Jesus’ resurrection. I’ll tell him that I’ve told the Easter Bunny not to bother at our house because Mom and Dad like to hide the eggs and put together the Easter baskets. Then we’ll go play with the Resurrection Eggs, I’ll hum “kill the wabbit” under my breath and pray that we can hang on to the wonder and joy of Santa for a little while longer.
I’d love to hear some other thoughts – how do you deal with the Easter bunny in your home?
Santa isn’t real?
I’m with you! My daughter was always creeped out by thought of a man sized bunny entering our house. One year when my daughter saw her Easter basket filled with candy, a kite and a butterfly purse, she said with all seriousness, “Mommy, I don’t think the Easter bunny is real. I think it’s really Santa dressed up as the Easter bunny!”
We have taught our children that bunnies are a sign of spring, as are tulips, and that we are blessed that we celebrate Easter during this time. Another way we reinforce Easter & minimize the bunny aspect is that our children get fairly modest Easter baskets (in comparison with their friends)–a chocolate bunny–always hollow as the tomb, Peeps, and some sort of fun play thing. But then the get a gift wrapped in colorful tissue paper each morning of the Easter octave & write on it: “Happy Easter Monday” “Still Celebrating the Resurrection” on Tuesday, “Glorious Easter Wednesday” etc. I find things they will enjoy outside–bubbles, sidewalk chalk…and now that we have a teenager I oddly got my daughter a big package of beef jerky–her favorite snack.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts-I find comfort in knowing we’re not alone!
Easter Blessings to you and your family–and I look forward to meeting you someday in the Resurrection!
Awesome blog Kristin. Not more than 35 minutes ago, this happened in my house:
“Daddy, do you believe the Easter Bunny is real?” asked my 1st grader.
“Well, seems kind of weird, don’t you think?” Side stepping like I’m looking for the nomination.
“But Dad, you believe in Santa,” stating an absolute fact.
“Yes, yes, of course. But, um…” the words glob out of my mouth like molasses as I look to my wife for relief. Only, she isn’t in the saving mood, preferring to watch me dangle.
“Okay, who wants a snack before we dye eggs?!” I lob into the middle of the kitchen like a grenade, trying to distract from my lack of answer.
I think this is a tough one for the exact reasons you shared. 1) I don’t want to ruin Santa. 2) Yet, the bunny is weird and does nothing but distract from Easter. Thanks for giving all us bunny busting parents good words – “I told the Easter Bunny not to bother with our house…”
I completely understand this post and completely agree with you about the Easter Bunny. We’ve always been more pro-Santa than EB. Our girls always get an Easter Basket but now we’re having to make the decision to let them know that the EB isn’t real. It’s super hard — especially since every. single. adult. in. existence. asked them on Easter Sunday morning, “So, did the Easter Bunny visit you?” We told them this morning that they got gifts for Easter because Jesus is the best gift of all and we give them gifts (in their baskets) to celebrate the gift that is Jesus rising from the dead. I think it partly sunk in because our eldest (who is 5) very smartly told someone who asked her that EB was just pretend. I think the adult who she told was a bit crushed. I feel like a bit of a heel and like I have to explain to other adults that we don’t focus on EB but we focus on Jesus’ resurrection. I wish other people wouldn’t ask stuff like that. It makes me feel like we (as the parents) are horrible killjoys.
Santa Claus was based on a real person, the good saint SAINT NICHOLAS. The (ugggggh …..how I BLOODY HATE HIM) the Easter Rabbit/Bunny is nothing but a companion deity for Oestra the Pagan Goddess for Spring and Rebirth. But the saddest part is when nobody tells you that you’re too old to believe in the Easter Rabbit/Bunny (like it happened to me thirty years ago)!!