By Michelle S. Lazurek, Crosswalk.com
Like other American holidays, Christians celebrate traditionally recognized holidays such as Christmas and Easter. However, some of the symbols used to celebrate the holidays come from pagan roots rather than Christian traditions (and predate Christianity). This causes some parents to question whether they should celebrate the holiday at all, given its origin. First, let's understand where the Easter Bunny came from and then discuss how to celebrate it in a way that makes Jesus the main focus, along with any questions your children might have regarding the symbolism.
Where Did the Easter Bunny Come From?
While Christians celebrate Jesus and the resurrection during Easter, Easter has pagan roots that come from a mythical creature named Eostre, the German goddess of dawn. She was a symbol of fertility and new beginnings. Her symbol was a bunny or hare. Since bunnies are known to pro-create and have large numbers of babies, Easter became a celebration of spring and of new growth after the death winter brings.
The date of Easter changes each year because it is celebrated on the Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox. We continue the celebration of Easter because it recognizes the new life that results from the season. Although pagans attributed it to the goddess of Eostre, Christians attach it to the celebration of new life that we have through Christ's death on the cross. Easter eggs are also a tradition where people swapped eggs as a gift to others.
Should Parents Celebrate the Easter Bunny?
Christian parents who celebrate the Easter Bunny are no different than those who celebrate Christmas by putting up a Christmas tree. Christmas trees also have pagan roots, but Christians simply attach Christian themes to the holiday. For example, we decorate a Christmas tree with candy canes, and we explain that the red and white stripes are the stripes that Jesus endured while he was whipped on the cross. We use the tree not to bow in worship to it but rather as a symbol of growth. In the same way, Christian parents can still tell their kids about the Easter Bunny and surprise them with an Easter basket on Easter morning without compromising their Christian roots.
Having said this, Christians should always listen to their conscience. If they feel they are dishonoring Christ by celebrating the Easter Bunny or having an Easter basket, they should refrain from doing so. You can also create an Easter basket filled with Christian-themed candy, activity books, and other special surprises to still celebrate the holiday but keep the focus on Christ. Whichever route a Christian chooses, they should follow what they believe is right. All holidays boil down to one thing: it's a matter of the heart. If you decide to host an Easter egg hunt for your children in your backyard, do so.
An even better idea is to overshadow/blot out pagan traditions with Christian traditions to give kids an education on who Jesus Christ is and bless them as well. If the idea of celebrating a pagan tradition bothers you, ask your church to host an Easter egg hunt. Feel free to incorporate a presentation on Jesus's sacrifice on the cross and even give an altar call as a way to evangelize to your community.
Jesus Is Always the Reason for the Season
Whether you choose to participate with the Easter bunny or decide to make your holiday Christ-centered, remember Jesus is always the reason for this season. When you make Christ the focus, you teach your children the importance of why you celebrate each holiday. It's rare that a child will walk away from the faith simply because they participated in pagan-rooted traditions throughout their childhood. They may want to question their faith and explore other religions when they grow older, but hunting for Easter eggs on Easter will hardly be the reason for that.
More than likely, they have many questions about their faith that have little to do with an Easter basket or a visit from the Easter Bunny. As a parent, it is vital to educate your children about your Christian views and do your best to instill those views into your children. If you have done all you can to demonstrate Christ-like character in your personal witness, created regular spiritual practices, and anchored your family in the Word of God, questioning their faith will be nothing more than a formality.
If your child wants to explore other religions as they grow older, challenge them to first make sure they have read the Bible cover to cover. Often, children have only received bits and pieces of the Bible from Sunday school class and church. It is rare that young adults who have read the Bible cover to cover and discovered the miraculous works of God, his unflinching grace, and unconditional love would want any other God but him. If they still choose to question it, welcome it. Challenge them to find another god who was an actual historical figure and who had 500 personal accounts of witnesses that all said they saw a man die and rise again. Dare them to find a religion that will not require them to do things to make them feel worthy and loved but that they are worthy and loved exactly as they are. Finally, dare them to find a God who would sacrifice his own Son to grant them access to heaven simply by believing in him.
What If My Child Questions Their Faith?
If your child has questions, sit down and have heart-to-heart conversations with them. Allow them to express their fears, doubts, and concerns without judgment or fear. If your child is going to stray from the faith, they've already made it up in their mind to do so. Talk to them openly and let them know you still love them, regardless of their religious practices, and let them know that you, like God, will always be there for them if they do decide to come back. Don't compromise on your beliefs for family gatherings or other holidays if your child chooses another religion. Let them know you will still talk about God freely, go to church, etc. They need to know your faith is not based in tradition or a finite understanding of the world but rather on the authentic experiences of a risen Savior. Offer to read the Bible together and ask them if they have any questions regarding what they're reading. It is not enough to simply read the Bible. Instead, study it for what the actual meanings are. Buy them a commentary and let them study some of their favorite verses that they have learned. Chances are, they will either become bored with the thorough study or enthralled with learning the meanings behind the Hebrew and Greek words that make up the Bible. Either way, they'll be engaging with Jesus through his written Word and dialogue with a trusted parent who will anchor them in the truth. You may be surprised to find your child receives a deeper understanding of the tenants of their faith because of their questions and doubts.
If your child has questions about the roots of the Easter Bunny, coloring Easter eggs, or Easter baskets, let them know these are merely symbols of the celebration of spring. Spring is the season of growth, new life, and new beginnings. But the true meaning of new life comes as a wooden cross on a hill called Calvary with Jesus Christ.
And Jesus is worth our celebrations every day, not just one day a year.
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/ASIFE
Michelle S. Lazurek is a multi-genre award-winning author, speaker, pastor's wife, and mother. She is a literary agent for Wordwise Media Services and a certified writing coach. Her new children’s book Who God Wants Me to Be encourages girls to discover God’s plan for their careers. When not working, she enjoys sipping a Starbucks latte, collecting 80s memorabilia, and spending time with her family and her crazy dog. For more info, please visit her website www.michellelazurek.