Bonnets and Baskets Tea
What events do your family celebrate? Many families celebrate birthdays and anniversaries as important family milestones. For Christian families we celebrate Christmas and Easter, Muslim families Ramadan and Eid, Jewish families Passover, Chanukkah, etc. For the purpose of this post we are going to focus, as I usually do, on the Christian traditions.
What is the first image that comes to mind when you hear the word Christmas? I’m willing to bet that for a number of you it was either a tree or Santa. Sure, lots of people would have pictured a manger scene, a star, an angel, or maybe an Advent wreath, but for every one of those I bet there are two people out there wishing they could have a do-over. How about Easter? Images like crosses, palms, nails, empty tombs, mix in with brightly decorated baskets filled with chocolate and candies, bunnies, and chicks.
Both of these celebrations have, at their hearts, the life of Jesus Christ. Christmas celebrates Jesus taking on human life in the unlikely form of a helpless infant who was almost immediately the focus of a plot to kill him. Easter celebrates Christ’s rising from the dead, but not without the pain and sacrifice of his arrest, and crucifixion.
The other day I was surprised to hear students in my class discussing Easter gift giving. I don’t mean asking what their family puts in the Easter basket/ what the Easter Bunny brings, but actually discussing the exchange of Easter gifts like we do Christmas gifts. It seems silly that the idea bothered me a bit, after-all I really enjoy buying Christmas gifts for people, and of course opening mine. It just doesn’t seem to be a part of Easter.
My husband and I have drawn some odd lines with our family traditions. We told the kids all about Santa Claus and even now read The Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve, after getting home from the midnight communion service. We decorate extensively (well, I do), have stockings, and exchange gifts. Somehow this doesn’t seem to lessen the event as a celebration of the birth of Christ. Easter on the other hand is all about church. I put up a few decorations like spring flowers to brighten things up after the long winter, but we have never pretended even for a moment that there was an Easter Bunny. We coined the term Easter Parents to explain who put out the tiny pile of treats on Easter morning (not to be touched until after church).
It seems hypocritical to “lie” to our kids and tell them about Santa Claus, the spirit of Christmas who enters into people and makes them more giving, and then not follow along and tell them about a bunny who delivers treats to children on Easter. I’m sure no real harm would be done. It is just that while at Christmas we are celebrating an entirely happy event, the birth of a child, Easter is much more complicated. Jesus was a gift from God. Like the birth of any child this is a joyous event. Theoretically, our gift giving is inspired by this gift.
Easter is about a huge sacrifice made by an innocent man to take away the sins of others. Jesus bled, was ridiculed, and died a shameful death. That is the most amazing gift anyone could give to another, but it is not easy to deal with. We celebrate Christ’s defeat of death when he rises on the third day, but the celebration is necessarily coloured by the events of the previous week. I see no role for a bunny carrying a basket of eggs here.
Don’t get me wrong, I think bunnies are adorable. I have a couple little ceramic bunnies on my mantle along with a jug of artificial spring flowers and palm branches. My kids will get a few chocolates, a book, and new socks or something on Sunday morning. I love Cadbury Easter cream eggs, and think the ads with the bunny clucking like a chicken are brilliant. But Easter is about church, services like Good Friday complete with the somber reminder of the cross, as well as Easter worship with communion.