The origins of the Easter Bunny are unclear, but he is mentioned in early German writings. The first edible Easter bunnies appeared in Germany in the 1800s, and were made out of sugar and pastry. As a kid I often wondered what the Easter Bunny had to do with eggs. Polish folklore has the Virgin Mary offering eggs to the soldiers guarding Christ on the cross, as she begged them to be merciful, her tears left stains on the eggs. Eggs and bunnies and candy. There are so many conflicting images that all seem to converge at Easter in some pastel menagerie with chocolate and jelly beans thrown in for good measure.
Recently I’ve read commentaries by some Christian writers complaining about the commercialization of Easter; how Easter is demeaned by the purchase of candy and greeting cards, etc. In 2013 the average consumer spent $145.13 on everything from Easter candy to new clothes. But wasn’t Easter originally a pagan feast to celebrate spring? Painting and dying eggs pre-dates Christianity. It seems that early Christians just conveniently supplanted what was already a festival. Sort of, “Hey, we already have a party – let’s make it about Jesus!”
As a Christian, I’m not really bothered that Easter was formally a pagan feast day. I’m equally undisturbed with the Easter Bunny sharing the day that celebrates the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. If we find new life in Christ, why not celebrate the new life around us? And if you’re not a Christian, I still hope that you can enjoy a dyed egg and a chocolate bunny (or whatever means springtime to you). According to the National Confectioners Association’s survey 87% of people create an Easter basket for their kids. This just makes for happy kids. It needn’t diminish the importance of Easter. To the contrary, it should emphasize the joy we share. Why not “wear your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it?”
For Christians this is our Holy Week. This is the most sacred time in our Church calendar. We celebrate and remember the passion and death of Jesus. We begin this week with Palm Sunday and continue through Holy Thursday and Good Friday, as we journey with Jesus to the cross. On Saturday at the Easter Vigil we celebrate His rising anew. Through His death and resurrection we are saved!
This year I’ve decided that instead of being annoyed with the secularization of Easter, I will embrace the world that God has given us. Whether I encounter those who are thankful for a Savior or folks who are just thankful for spring weather, I will try to share their joy. As some of my friends celebrate Passover and others are looking forward to a long weekend, why create conflict? Instead of looking for something to be angry about or focusing on our differences I will try to bring peace and reconciliation to those I meet.
I believe that God created a world big enough for all of us. So I’ll be singing Alleluia on Easter and later if I spy a bunny in my garden or a jellybean should find its way to me, so much the better.