With the Easter Bunny so often associated with gifts, some parents may want to downplay this aspect of the holiday or avoid it altogether to avoid the necessity of another holiday with an overabundance of candy. Why is the Easter Bunny even associated with the Christian holiday of Easter? “The icon of the Easter Bunny is much older than Christianity,” Robert Lee Ellison tells us in The Solitary Druid: Walking the Path of Wisdom and Spirit. “It is the lunar hare, sacred to the moon Goddess in both the Orient and in western countries, such as Gaul.” The moon goddess is often imagined accompanied by a hare or rabbit, and this rabbit has made its way into the Easter celebration from its pagan origins.
Since spring pagan celebrations were a way to rejoice in the rebirth of nature and to ritually act out this seasonal change, many of them are in fact similar or even the same as the ways modern families celebrate Easter. Coloring Easter eggs and scavenger hunts to find these treasures come to us from a long, long heritage of people heralding the arrival of spring. For millennia, eggs have been associated with new life, and were an essential part of spring celebrations in ancient cultures.
Therefore, Unitarian Universalist families who want to celebrate the secular aspects of Easter can consider themselves commemorating the arrival of spring through the symbols of ancient pagan traditions. Parents can talk about the annual resurrection of life through plants, flowers, and trees and encourage their children to color eggs or have egg hunts to celebrate the coming of Spring and the changes the Earth brings.
Because the celebration of Easter is inevitably tied to Jesus’ resurrection, it is also important that we let our children know—whether or not we consider ourselves Christian—the story surrounding this holiday. Now that my children are older, I make a point of showing the movie Jesus Christ Superstar each Good Friday. (The remake done in the year 2000 makes the story more contemporary and less “retro” for today’s youth.) I particularly like this story because it is ambiguous: Is Jesus a man, or is he God? It’s rather open to interpretation and perspective.
This movie always opens the door for conversation and thoughtful questions—and gives us the chance to talk about our beliefs. Whether it’s “Why do they call it Good Friday if that is the day he died?” or “If he was God, why couldn’t he just stop them from killing him?” these questions need to be considered and talked about because our Unitarian Universalist children have inquisitive minds and are burning with questions. Easter can be one more opportunity to help them find some answers.
Photograph above ©2007 Sherri Camp/iStockphoto
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Michelle Richards is the author of Tending the Flame: The Art of Unitarian Universalist Parenting (Skinner House, 2010).