The Easter Bunny vs. the Jesus thing (a question of faith)

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Ah, the lengths to which we go to preserve the illusions of childhood.

Two weeks before Easter, they wrote a letter to the Easter Bunny to tell him we weren’t going to be at home, but at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. On Holy Saturday at bedtime, Christian took Alex over to the table where the baskets stood ready for the great rodent, and solemnly laid out a plate of carrots and lettuce leaves. And I thought, Oh, my goodness. Are we not taking this a wee bit too far?

After all, when you lay the plate of cookies out at Christmas, at least they get eaten! Holy Saturday night at 11p.m. when we finished watching Joan of Arc with my in-laws, I had to put all that roughage back in the refrigerator before I could go to bed.

But really, I think the thing that worries me most is this: we spend all this energy trying to make these two holidays magical for the children by building up these completely fictional characters—characters they can’t see, but in whose existence they are expected to believe (do you see where I’m going with this?). And then at some point, we have to yank that rug out from under them and say, “No, it’s actually Mom andDadwho buy your Christmas presents and your Easter candy.”

And how do we explain God? Yes—as someone they can’t see, but in whose existence they are expected to believe.

Children believe because they’re wired to believe. But when confronted with the (let’s call a spade a spade) institutional lies about Santa and the Easter Bunny, is it not inevitable that someday they’ll also doubt the more important questions of belief?

I lost my belief in Santa early—first grade, perhaps second. A classmate came up to me and asked, in the low voice of someone telling a sordid secret, did I know that Santa wasn’t real? Not wanting to look like the fool, I said, “Of course.” And I went home and asked my mom.

But see, it didn’t bother me. Because it made sense. Santa didn’t bring us very much, anyway, not by comparison to my classmates. Realizing that my parents were Santa made the whole thing clear. Even at six, I knew that farmers had no money. All my classmate’s revelation did was help me organize the holiday around its real meaning instead of a quest for loot.

As for the Easter bunny, I don’t remember ever actually believing in the Easter bunny. I’m sure I must have, but perhaps I generalized the Santa lesson instantly.

So, with my own experience in mind, perhaps I’m worrying unnecessarily. After all, there’s more evidence of God than there is of the Easter Bunny: I can point to the presence of God in the world around us, in the way we love each other and the beauty of Creation.

On the other hand, loot is pretty convincing. Probably more convincing than beautiful flowers and the glory of nature.

And we have not exercised the same restraint in gift-giving that my parents did out of sheer necessity.

So…perspectives? Did losing faith in Santa and the Easter Bunny (and the tooth fairy, and whatever other loot-bringers I’m overlooking right now) have any impact at all on your faith? Am I overreacting? How do (or did) you handle this with your children?