I’ll never forget the first time one of my children asked me that question. I’m sure that I must have “looked like a calf staring at a new gate.” I’m sure that my face was a mixture of shock, frantic thought and abject fear. I didn’t want to lie, but I also didn’t want them to go running from the room screaming to mom the terrible truth that I had just revealed. I also didn’t want to perpetuate a falsehood that robs Jesus of His rightful place on Resurrection Sunday.
Let me give some personal background. One of my earliest memories is that of spending time with my grandparents at Easter, and hearing Gene Autry sing the familiar words, “Here comes Peter Cottontail, hoppin’ down the bunny trail. Hippity, hoppity, Easter’s on its way” over the radio in their Chrysler Town Car. I have vivid memories of Easter baskets and chocolate bunnies and Easter egg hunts. In short, my earliest Easter memories include bunnies and eggs and baskets.
Now that I’m a parent and pastor I’ve had to stop and consider the implications of telling the truth about bunnies and eggs or allowing my children to think that Easter is more about those things than the resurrected Savior. Now, there’s no doubt about what we teach at the Whitt house in regards to Easter. We make no bones about it that we celebrate Easter because Jesus died for our sins, was buried in a borrowed tomb, but rose from the dead on the third day. We teach our children these basic Bible truths while they are still infants. In fact, just last night I shared with Jonathan about how Jesus came and lived and died and rose from the dead so that one day he could give his life to the One who gave His for him. I know that he can’t understand everything yet, but I want to speak the gospel into his young heart as early and often as possible.
While typing this week’s post, I asked Benjamin why we celebrate Easter and he said, “Because Jesus died, and then was alive.” I have to admit that makes me proud. I want him to know that the reason we celebrate Easter is because of an empty tomb and a promise kept, not because of some fairytale about a bunny that lays eggs and passes out candy.
But, that brings me to the point of this post. How are we as Christian parents to handle the issue of the Easter Bunny? Are we to do like some and never even acknowledge this part of society’s celebration of Easter? Are we supposed to forego the baskets and candy and bunnies? I know that there are some who advocate this approach, but what we do at the Whitt house is teach that the Easter Bunny is make-believe. He’s like Santa Clause and Superman – he doesn’t actually exist.
Do we put out Easter baskets? Yes. Do we let our children hunt for Easter eggs? Yes. We just make sure that our children understand that this is all make-believe and is done for fun, but that the real reason for celebrating Easter is the resurrection of Jesus. He’s the best gift ever given. He’s the sweetest thing about Easter. He’s the One that we should be looking forward to seeing and longing for His coming.
So, how do we handle the issue of the Easter bunny? (Or, Santa Clause and the Tooth Fairy for that matter.) First, we tell our children the truth – the whole truth. We don’t just say that there is no Easter Bunny. We tell them what Easter is all about. After all, that’s an even more compelling and meaningful story than one about some bunny hopping down the “bunny trail.” Second, we allow space for fantasy. I don’t want to rob my children of some of the meaningful times of childhood. I was allowed and able to enjoy the baskets and egg hunts and, of course, the candy. Last, we let them have fun. They’re children, and they won’t be children for very long. I want to spend all the time that I can with them doing the silly things like hunting for eggs and singing silly songs. As long as your building into their lives the truth of God’s Word it will never return void. Trust God. Tell the truth and have fun. That just about sums it up. Now, I’m off to dye some eggs and find some good places to hide them.