By Beth Ann Baus, Crosswalk.com
Every spring, a familiar discussion arises amongst Christians. This discussion concerns a bunny, plastic eggs, and the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. If you've ever wondered how to (or even if you should) involve the Easter Bunny and a candy-filled basket in your resurrection celebration, you're not alone.
Rather than try and persuade you one way or the other, I'd like to touch on some of the reasons other brothers and sisters have decided to or not to partake. Hopefully, this will help you make a clear conscience decision for your family or, at the very least, give you some common language to discuss this topic with others lovingly.
The History of Easter Traditions
Through the centuries, people have celebrated spring as a semblance of rebirth. Around Easter time (in the northern hemisphere, at least), flowers bloom, the grass greens, birds lay their eggs, and we all feel a sense of renewal after a long, gray winter.
Because rabbits, historically, represent fertility - and for good reason, as they are known for their rapid reproductive nature - it's no surprise that rabbits became the face of rebirth for the spring season. It's difficult to find spring decorations that don't include bunnies.
Historically, eggs were among the forbidden foods for the Lenten season, and people would paint and decorate eggs to mark the end of fasting. It is said that early Christians in Mesopotamia would dye eggs red to mimic the blood that Christ shed during his crucifixion.
We don't know for certain the origin of the bunny who brings candy to children in colorful little baskets. Some cite early German settlers to America who brought the folklore of a hare who judged whether children were good or bad (much like Santa) and rewarded good children with a basket or nest full of colorful eggs.
We do know unequivocally that there is no mention of such a creature or tradition in the Holy Scriptures. For this reason, some parents have fretted over the decision of whether or not to partake in these cultural festivities.
Am I lying to my child?
I hope we can all agree that the Lord hates a lying tongue (Proverbs 6:16-17). However, I doubt we all agree on whether or not it's lying to introduce our children to the Easter Bunny and let them believe the creature is real.
Some would argue that your child believing in the Easter Bunny for a time is no different than your child thinking Mickey Mouse or any other cartoon character is real. This group believes that fantasy is part of childhood and it encourages imagination. Therefore, they argue, allowing them to learn, in their own time, the difference between reality and make-believe is in no way lying.
Others would argue that it's more beneficial for their children to know and understand that the gifts they receive, be it a basket of chocolate eggs, a gift at Christmas, or money for a tooth, came from people in their lives who love them, not fictional characters. This group believes giving gifts through characters like the Easter Bunny takes pretending to an unhealthy level and encourages a lie.
Is it harmful to believe in something that isn't real?
Some believe great harm can come from a child being taught that a fictional character is real. Their concern is that children will come to an age of understanding the truth and, upon learning their parents "lied" to them, trust will be broken, and the validity of other figures, like God, will come into question.
Others, however, support the idea that children believing in fictional characters is beneficial for their emotional health and brain function. One argument is that fictional holiday characters offer hope, encouraging and teaching children lessons on acceptance, kindness, and giving.
Another argument is that many young children believe all their favorite cartoon characters are real. Kids don't always differentiate between animation and live-action. We don't sit with our children as they watch cartoons and explain that none of these characters are real. So, why, they ask, do we feel the need to offer this explanation with other fictional characters like Santa or the Easter Bunny? Fantasy is a healthy part of childhood.
Does celebrating the Easter bunny distract from Jesus?
This is perhaps the most crucial question. If you asked your children what Easter Sunday is all about, would they immediately talk about the Easter Bunny and all the goodies in their basket? Or would they talk first about their age-appropriate understanding of Jesus having been resurrected from the grave?
While some would say our children have freedom in Christ to enjoy our cultural traditions, as long as the cultural tradition isn't replacing the real meaning of the holiday, others would disagree.
Some would say we shouldn't even use the term Easter since there is debate on where this word originated, and refer to this holiday instead as Resurrection Sunday.
Can the Easter Bunny be used as a means of evangelism?
Some would argue that the best way to live out their faith is to stay as far away from the Easter Bunny tradition as possible, while others would argue that partaking in these cultural traditions is a way to engage with people you would otherwise never come in contact with.
For instance, many Christian families do not participate in Halloween - meaning they don't dress up or decorate for the holiday. They do, however, pass out candy because they see the opportunity to have neighbors who otherwise wouldn't come to their door.
With that same mindset, some don't partake in the cultural Easter celebration in their own homes - meaning they don't highlight the Easter Bunny, give their kids baskets, or color eggs. However, they do participate in the community egg hunt to connect with people they otherwise wouldn't have the opportunity to connect with.
Can we enjoy Easter traditions and still focus on Jesus?
Many families have found a way to enjoy our culture's Easter traditions and still keep the focus on Jesus. For instance, the coloring of eggs is the perfect example. Digging into the history of fasting and coloring eggs red to represent Jesus's blood is a beautiful way to honor Jesus and teach your children what this holiday is about.
Some have found the Easter egg to be a perfect tool to teach about the tomb. They observe that just like a baby chick has to wait to break free of its tomb-like shell, just as Jesus had to wait three days to rise from the dead. As the baby chick breaks free from the shell, the shell is cracked and crushed beyond repair; the egg can never inhabit that baby chick again. In the same way, Jesus defeated death, and death no longer has a hold on us.
Others have found that giving gifts in an Easter basket is similar to giving gifts at Christmas. Parents explain to their children that through the resurrection of Jesus, we, God's children, have been given the sweet gift of forgiveness and salvation. Therefore, one way to celebrate is for parents to give their children gifts.
Do all traditions have to have a biblical purpose?
I have yet to find a good way to use the Easter Bunny to point to Jesus. But do all traditions have to have a biblical purpose? Let's think about St. Patrick's Day. Many Christians have followed the example of Saint Patrick in using the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity. Each leaf represents the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
However, many Christians also enjoy the tradition of wearing green on St. Patrick's Day and pinching those who don't. You'll often see decorations with leprechauns chasing the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. These images and the pinching tradition in no way point to Jesus, yet they are a fun tradition that many Christians partake in without a second thought.
The point here, that some would argue, is that not all traditions have to point to Christ. Some traditions are just fun, like the Easter Bunny bringing baskets full of goodies.
Is there only one way to celebrate Jesus' resurrection?
Have you considered that we have brothers and sisters worldwide who celebrate Easter differently than we do?
Our brothers and sisters in the Philippines are known to have a procession of men following an image of Jesus risen from the dead and another procession of women following Jesus' mother, Mary, who wears a black veil. The two groups meet at the church to symbolize Jesus comforting Mary after the resurrection. Then little girls dressed as angels take off Mary's veil, and the people erupt in celebration.
In Bermuda, our brothers and sisters often fly kites on Good Friday to signify Jesus ascending to Heaven. This came about after a teacher wanted to help his students better understand the ascension.
My point is that while our society celebrates diversity, we tend to turn our noses up at people with different traditions or convictions than our own. So if you see your brothers and sisters in Christ celebrating Easter Sunday differently than you, ask them questions about their family's heritage and upbringing. Understanding your differences might make them less offensive.
Is it okay to disagree on these issues?
We all tend to be passionate about our personal convictions and want others to share them, but we need to keep the main things the main things.
It's important to remember Jesus's words in John 13:35, "By this, all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." Highlighting our love for one another is far more important than highlighting our differing opinions and convictions.
If nothing else, let's commit to living out Romans 12:18 as we prepare for our resurrection celebration: "If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all."
Whether your celebration includes a new spring outfit, a basket full of goodies, a spiral-baked ham, or kite flying, I pray your heart will be focused on the undeserved treasure we have in Jesus and all the mindblowing implications of his death, burial, and resurrection.
Beth Ann Baus is a wife and mother of two adult sons. She is a freelance writer and author of Sister Sunday, My So Much More, and His Power, Our Weakness: Encouragement for the Biblical Counselor. In her writing, Beth often pulls from her own experiences of abuse, anxiety, depression and OCD. Beth has a heart for homeschooling, women’s ministry, and is an ACBC-certified Biblical Counselor. She loves serving alongside her husband and pointing couples to the Word for strengthening their marriages and home life. You can find more from her at www.bethannbaus.com.