Monday, April 11, 2011

On Easter baskets and Santa Claus

To date, I have collected the following items for Olivia's Easter basket: A hula hoop (her request), a jump rope, three paint books, a box of peeps and a Cadbury egg. The last two items are simply because she loves marshmallows and no kid should live their whole life without experiencing the joy of Cadbury (otherwise I'd probably have skipped the sugar altogether). I will probably also pick up some Play-Doh accessories. Olivia really enjoys Play-Doh, and it's so colorful! And fun! And since we got rid of the carpet, I don't even have to worry about brightly colored bits of dried-up doh getting permanently stuck to the floor. Just sweep it up! Love it!

While Olivia WILL have an Easter basket, she will NOT be told that the Easter bunny brought it. The Easter bunny will not be visiting our house. Mommy and Daddy are giving gifts to our little girl to celebrate the Resurrection. It's as good an excuse as any (maybe better) to give gifts, right? But let's leave the Bunny out of it, shall we?

I am not one of those people who has a problem with Santa Claus. We live in a Christmas-themed town with statues of the jolly old elf everywhere, so avoiding him would be pretty pointless. Besides, he's based on St. Nicholas. St. Nick is OK with me. Some argue that belief in a made-up being can shatter a child's ability to believe in God, who is also unseen, once they grow old enough to realize and understand the myth that is Santa. But we "did" Santa as a kid, and we knew Jesus, and somehow, I never once doubted Jesus or my faith in Him. Perhaps this was because my entire family (immediate and extended) was steeped in our faith. Church was part of our life. The manger scene beneath the tree was always emphasized more than Santa. Santa was the guy who brought the party gifts for the big birthday celebration we threw every year for Jesus. We got it.

Easter is another story. It is the pinnacle of the Christian calendar. The big kahuna. If you are Christian and you observe nothing else all year, you should at least observe Easter. You can "bah-humbug" all over Christmas (not that I recommend that!), and you should still be moved by the celebration of the Resurrection. This is where it's at, people. This is what it's all about.

(Strange aside...I have a friend who works for a non-profit organization that receives free office space in a non-denominational church of some sort. Anyway, she overheard the church board voting on whether or not to have an Easter service. That information left me speechless. I'm still not sure what to say.)

So, the Easter bunny. I'm sorry...I just can't make that connection. As best I can tell, the Easter bunny has pre-Christian origins, is a symbol of Spring and fertility, and has nothing to do with the resurrection (except for a vague connection you might make with fertility and new life in Christ, but that seems like a stretch). And a bunny that lays (or delivers) eggs? It just seems a little ridiculous to me.

We won't have much difficulty, I'd imagine, in denying the existence (or avoiding the mention) of an Easter bunny. Even though you can find plenty of stuffed and chocolate bunnies in stores at the moment, popular culture doesn't talk a lot about the Easter bunny anymore. I think the word "Easter" is verboten. Something about openly advertising this undeniably Christian event is no longer acceptable. Not a problem that popular culture has with Christmas, but it seems we celebrate a "season" there and not actually an event that changed the course of human history. I guess "Tis the Season" doesn't have the same ring when you are celebrating Spring as it does when you are celebrating Winter...

Yes, on Easter we'll have a basket full of toys, with a little sugar added for good measure. We'll probably hunt eggs (real ones) because they are just so darned fun to decorate and make for a good seasonal craft project. Plus, they look awfully pretty in a centerpiece. But the heart of our celebration will be the Easter Vigil Mass (now that Olivia's old enough to survive a late evening Mass). It is beautiful, deeply moving and full of symbols that even young children can understand. This Mass tells the story of Christianity. I love that. And it kicks off a SEASON of Easter, which we continue to celebrate for weeks until Pentecost. I love that too.

And we'll leave the Bunny out of it. He's so unnecessary and confusing. So thanks, mythological gift-giving figures, but we'll handle this holiday on our own.

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