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?