dilemma of the day…is it time to let the Easter bunny hop on down the bunny trail for good?

I was talking with my mother the other day when she asked me casually, "What are you doing for Easter?"  I pulled a complete blank. It was almost as if I didn’t know what she was talking about.  To buy some time, I asked when it is this year.  She told me, but I can’t remember what she said.

That is how not into Easter I am.

I had not even thought of Easter until that moment.  It’s just not on my radar. For one thing, we don’t go to church.  I was brought up Catholic and thus am familiar with the old saw that Easter is a far holier holiday than Christmas, but I am so disgusted with the Catholic church that it has tainted the few – make that the one – positive association I have with Catholicism.  And any magic the Easter bunny once held for my children has long since dissipated like an early morning mist.

If I purchase gifts, my children will happily open them.  If I go to the trouble of buying three dozen eggs and assorted dye kits, hard boiling the eggs, laying out the newspaper, mixing the vinegar with the dye in appropriately-sized cups, and laying the entire creative endeavor out on the kitchen counter, they will happily dye a few eggs.  At least three minutes worth.  If I decorate the house with the paper easter eggs I have bought at the flea market in years past, they might notice them. If I place assorted jelly beans in the paper eggs, they will definitely notice them.  If I pull out the easter baskets and fill them with foil-wrapped chocolate eggs and life-sized chocolate replicas of the Easter bunny himself, they will happily consume them.  And if I make an Easter ham, mashed potatoes, asparagus and lemon souffle, they will merrily scarf that down too.

There is no doubt in my mind that everyone would enjoy Easter if I decide to create it.  But the question for me today is, should I?  Or is it time to let the Easter bunny hop on down the bunny trail for good?

Sometimes I feel that as a mother, I am the keeper of traditions that then end up keeping me.  This has, oh, everything, to do with the fact that I do all the work.  And when I am all caught up in the buying and the wrapping and the decorating and the buying of the stuff that I didn’t buy the first time, I lose myself and my own work.

Apart from the fact that it consumes me for at least a week, there are other perfectly good reasons to not celebrate Easter. To wit, its now wildly commercial nature and the fact that we are  completely non-religious.

I do want celebratory moments in our family life.  But do they need to be linked to ancient traditions that I don’t espouse?

Part of me wishes I could take the Waldorf route and celebrate the equinox, or whatever planetary event it is that is supposed be the harbinger of spring, but I really don’t have it in me.

I decided to check in with Youngest and get his read on the situation. As he dropped his backpack and opened the refrigerator for an after-school snack, I asked cautiously, "Youngest, do you even care if we celebrate Easter this year?"

"What!" he asked with a slightly panicked look.  "When is it?"  He seemed worried that we had somehow already missed it.

"I don’t know exactly," I replied vaguely, "sometime over vacation."

He knew instantly where this conversation was going because he actually pointed his finger at me and declared in a loud voice,  "We WILL be celebrating Easter!  Easter is my favorite holiday ever!"

"You don’t even know when it is," I replied mildly.  "How favorite could it be? I was just thinking…"

He interrupted me, "I am ONLY thirteen!  You overestimate people’s ages."

He makes a point.  There I go again, prematurely ending motherhood. 

OK. Fine. For at least one more year, the Easter bunny can make a stop at our house.  But I am NOT helping him hide his eggs.

18 thoughts on “dilemma of the day…is it time to let the Easter bunny hop on down the bunny trail for good?

  1. I keep forgetting that Easter is happening! Lovely post – I’m really getting into the idea of parents as a treasurehouse of narratives but can see what a burden it could be when everything is reducible to a narrative. Still contemplating what you posted on my blog about the importance of this for small children. Maybe there’s a way of giving your kids responsibility for owning Easter? (Apart from remembering the date? “I am ONLY thirteen!” How crushing is that?!?

  2. (un)relaxeddad, I have been percolating a post about the importance of narrative – especially as it relates to trauma – and will try to get to it today. One of my favorite topics. Yes, my boys will definitely be taking some ownership of Easter this year. “I’m ONLY thirteen.” Really, the boy is absolutely amazing. More on that later, too. Thanks for all the inspiration.

  3. The egg hunts ended last year. The last official egg hunt was when my son was 12. But there will still be a basket and a small giftie or two this year. He just turned 14. And I will do everything. Because that is my job.
    We have always only been Santa-and-the-Easter-Bunny Christians. Not like when I was growing up with the Easter dresses and the church-going. My kid has been in more synagogues for his friends’ bar mitzvahs than he has been in churches for any reason.
    I know what you mean about being kept by the traditions you keep. Very well put.

  4. Oh, how I long to discard the trappings of these holidays! My dream would be to dump the highly commercialized Christmas(TM) and only do Winter Solstice (with an exchange of handmade — not purchased — gifts) (I say “only” because right now we do both). But the resistance at my house is not just the girls but also the Consort, who likes traditions as much as the girls. We’re not religious (in the sense that most main-stream US Christians would accept), either.
    I’ve talked to the girls about this Easter, and, after getting their acceptance for my plan, I talked to the Consort. We’ve decided that we’ll dye eggs. Treats will be hidden. BUT — it won’t be in the usual style. It will be a scavenger hunt, with word and number clues that have to be solved before moving on to the next step, with the goodies all at the end. I’m in charge of this, so it does mean more work for me, but heck, I was in charge of getting the goodies anyway in previous years. And this way, we’ll remove more of the trappings of a Christian Easter(TM).
    I do understand the appeal of tradition. Especially when so much else in our “modern” lives is transient. But I want to enjoy things, too.

  5. Anna, I loved reading your Easter essay. You untwisted the quandry with a perfect twirl in your writing – maybe it was Youngest who actually twirled. I don’t know why, but I felt so relieved at the end of your essay that Easter will be happening at your house this year! Love, L.

  6. This is such a great post. How My mother always created amazing traditions around the holidays and we did grow up in a protestant church. For me the holiday narratives were always really important as a child-the mystery, the magic the symbolism. But here’s the thing—my mom was caught up in it too…so I think it was contagious. My hope is to reacreate some of that for my children because these holidays still hold meaning to me on many levels…spiritually and also just as fond memories. But I don’t want it to be just commercialized or just what everyone else is doing. The meaning is important to me. I have tried to be a clone of my mom, but it just doesn’t work. I don’t have her capacity for multitasking so some of the traditions just feel like work. So I’ve simplified and I’ve made things my own. Because it’s only special if it’s special to me too. Otherwise it is just work.
    Perhaps as your kids keep getting older you will be able to talk to them about what traditions are important to them, or even create new ones together so you aren’t working to make something out of nothing. My sisters, mother and I still do a few of our holiday traditions together as adults if we are together, but we have selected what is important to us and take ownership of it. I think we even started a bit of that when we were in high school. Like I love pumpkin bread at Thanksgiving…so once I could follow the recipe that was my job…still is…every year. Ahh…sweet pumpkin bread.
    Oh…and I love the “I am ONLY 13!” comment….that sounds at least old enough to bake or something. Now I’m just thinking about pumpkin bread.

  7. I totally understand your position. I am also a recovering Catholic and it has tainted so many traditions for me. We are Quakers now and its focus on simplicity has been great for our family. We do celebrate Easter, but humbly and with an emphasis on renewal and improvement, not all that gloom and doom or the commercialism. No easter baskets and plastic grass, but we do each get a chocolate bunny. Yum!
    Thanks for stopping by radical mama!

  8. I guess it might be worth bearing in mind which traditions belong to whom. After all, the Easter Bunny, eggs and so on have nothing to do with Christianity, but the vernal equinox. And the rabbits and hares were symbols of fertility and renewal throughout Europe for so many ages that you can pretty much do what you like with them.
    Perhaps it might be an idea to talk to the kids about what Easter means to them. They know the stories. The idea of celebrating spring for spring’s sake is a pretty easy concept to grasp. And then, from that point, maybe they can then work out what, if anything, they want to do in order to celebrate it. Otherwise the question is almost like, “So, do you want some Chocolate?”

  9. Too funny! You sound like me! Don’t think for an instance the kids don’t notice what you do. Oh they do! They’re teenagers, for God’s sake.
    In fact, they will remember the tiniest details of your decorating and cooking long after they move out on their own.
    I’m one of those completely insane women who cooked and cleaned and decorated herself into a frenzy in an effort to provide happy childhood memories for my two daughters– and it worked!

  10. This is why I love coming to your site — I get a preview of what’s to come… If I keep reading you, nothing will ever take me by surprise!
    Consider yourself tagged. Come by my site to see the rules, etc., etc. …

  11. great post…i too have this vague “how the hell am i supposed to know when Easter is?” feeling, and great uncertainty about how much i’m supposed to care. i do have a distanced respect for what the holiday is supposed to mean…but no connection to it any longer.
    except…your egg photo. is that your paper egg? i had one of those! long gone now, probably rotted in a basement somewhere, but looking at it i could remember the papery feel of it in my hands, and the thrill of having it come out every year in anticipation of spring and chocolate.
    sigh. i want my children to have that…but i don’t really know how to offer mystery without faith. this is my first Easter with a little one, so there is much holiday negotiation ahead of us. 🙂

  12. Thanks everyone, great comments full of insight.
    KathyR, I guess the way to not be kept by the traditions we keep is to make sure they are our own.
    Imperatrix, less commercialism, all the time.
    Lindsay, yes, as usual I think it was Youngest who was twirling. I just try to follow his lead.
    Heather, I think the boys will handle dessert (which may mean the lemon souffle is out). Taking ownership of the traditions is so important in keeping them joyful.
    Venessa, how great that you have found a spiritual tradition that feels right for you and your family. I love the idea of Easter as a time of renewal.
    The Goldfish, you are so right – the way I framed it really did end up as if I were asking them if they liked chocolate. I think we may spend some time re-framing the Easter bunny in the light of those ancient traditions.
    Mizmell, yes, Youngest made it very clear that he notices when I try to short-change him out of something his brothers got to enjoy!
    slouching mom, I have never been tagged before. Thanks! (I think)
    Bon, yes, that egg is one of my flea market finds. It’s beautiful, isn’t it? And not an Easter bunny in sight. “How to offer mystery without faith.” Now THAT is a great question…

  13. I know what you mean. I’ve never done the Easter bunny thing and every time my kids talk about the Easter bunny they get this “Our Mom is such a slacker” sound to their voices that would be pathetic if I actually cared. 🙂

  14. Having just made the first holiday season and birthday season that Z. will actually remember, it was a healthy reminder that this effort will become a ritual part of how I experience the calendar.
    To pick up on Goldfish’s metaphor, isn’t it nice to think that Youngest thinks ritual is chocolate?

  15. SF Mom of One, how right you are. Wonder does indeed work.
    Michelle, Have your kids and my kids been talking? Commiserating, perhaps, about their slacker moms?
    Sheila, I guess it depends on whether, when you think of chocolate, you think of a rare treat or empty calories!

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