Hallelujahs and Easter Bunnies
I’ve never understood Easter.
Jesus, the son of God, the “king of the Jews,” is arrested, brutally beaten and hung on a cross. He’s killed on that cross in the most savage of ways all while telling the bad guys on either side of him that they can join him in Heaven and then converting one of them. Then, his body is pierced, all the water flows, and he is removed from the cross in the darkest of dark times. He is moved to a tomb, the stone is rolled to cover the opening, and sadness fills the air. A couple of days go by, and his body disappears. He’s no where to be found until he reveals himself to a few folks and they discover: he has risen from the dead! He’s alive! The prophecies have been fulfilled! Glory day!
And then everyone bought their kids some candy and plastic eggs, convinced them that an oversized rabbit delivered them, and all the world rejoiced.
Seriously. It’s weird.
Maybe it’s because I didn’t grow up with an Easter basket or the Easter bunny or any other of the secular discussion. My siblings and I were lucky if Mom bought a bag of candy and laid it on the table for us to devour at will.
One time, our church youth group hosted an egg hunt. I was about 13, and I distinctly remember my mother’s gasp when I told her I’d offered to dress up and pose for pictures as the Easter bunny. She wasn’t quite thrilled that our church was doing anything that had connections to a walking, talking, sweets-delivering, hopping mammal. I did it anyway, and I even convinced Dad to take a picture with me.
The first time I really dyed eggs — to my knowledge — was when my oldest was 3. Let’s do the math. That means I was almost 30 years old before I fumbled with water, dye, vinegar, boiled eggs.
Two nights ago, Math Man asked me if I had procured anything for our kids for Easter gifts. I looked him square in the eye and said, “Nope.” We went back and forth a bit about his reasons for getting the stuff and my reasons for not getting the stuff. We finally resolved that he would pick something up.
But why? Why are we so pulled to do this?
I’ve always felt the pressure to do some sort of basket or treat for my kids. We’ve varied between a basket with some candy, some major gifts, some not so major gifts. And now, with the dawn of Pinterest upon us, it’s even worse. Don’t get me wrong. I love seeing happy faces of my kids’ friends on Facebook as they discover what the bunny brought them. But I continue to struggle with doing this for my kids.
After the Animal woke up this morning and joined us in our room, I told him, “Happy Easter!” He was excited that Easter had finally arrived, so I decided to have the talk with him. It went something like this:
Me: Do you know what Easter is about?
Him: Yes. Bunnies.
Me: Well, bunnies are definitely something cool about Easter time. It’s spring, so lots of animals are having babies. Bunnies included. But do you really know what Easter is for?
Him: (shows me his hands…flips them palm up then palm down)
Me: Yes! Jesus’s hands. They put nails in them, didn’t they?
Me: And then do you know what happened?
Him: He died.
Me: Yes. (Then, I launched into a 4-year-old appropriate discussion of the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection.) Isn’t that exciting?
Me: And do you know now where Jesus is?
Him: (Pointing to the ceiling) Heaven!
Him: With God. They’re kind of like Two-Face.
Me: Ok. So what is Easter all about?
We have ingrained this bunny legend into our kids so hard that he can’t get past it. Easter egg hunts at school. Egg hunts here in the back yard. Candy. Videos about Easter eggs. Coloring pictures of bunnies and eggs and more. Egg dye. It’s everywhere.
I turned to Math Man this morning and said,
“You know? It’s weird. Christmas is an important holiday because, obviously, without it we wouldn’t have Jesus. He was born. We celebrate his birthday and his coming. But Easter? Easter is like the embodiment of our entire faith. And yet here we are discussing bunnies.”
It is weird. In December, we hear over and over: “Jesus is the reason for the season.” But isn’t He even more so this time of year? When he was tortured, betrayed, killed? When he gave all that he had because he was fulfilling prophecy and giving us new life?
Isn’t this the time to scream and shout and celebrate his LIFE? To proclaim to the world, “He is risen!” and share the exciting news?
During the children’s sermon this morning, when the pastor had the kids screaming, “HALLELUJAH” in competition with the congregation, I turned to our youngest son and said, “Isn’t this exciting!?” There was a bit of confusion in his eyes (why are all these people yelling?), yet there was an element of wonder. I said, “We’re excited about Jesus!” and he smiled, “Yes! Jesus!”
Easter is a difficult holiday to understand, to explain, and to share. It’s difficult to explain to my children the brutality of that weekend and then the glory of the resurrection. The concept is one that takes maturity to fully understand. But if I don’t talk about it regularly, it’ll be harder and harder to grasp as they grow older.
It’s also difficult to resist the fun of an Easter basket and Easter activities. To find a middle ground where we don’t forget the true purpose of this season in the midst of all the commercialized activities. To not succumb to the pressure of our peers who are talking about the bunny and the gifts and the eggs.
I’m not really sure how to remedy this conundrum. I suppose I’ll keep fumbling through and figuring out how to explain all of this to my kids. I’ll continue to tell them the story in their terms and help them understand the vast importance of Easter morning. And I suppose I’ll continue to buy them some candy and let them hunt for eggs. And we’ll keep talking about the abundance of new life that awaits us through Christ much like the new life of that comes with spring.
How do you do it? How do you keep the “fun” in Easter while teaching your children the true meaning?