Easter - Bunnies and Zombies

Monday 20th March, 2023

I was brought up as a half-assed Protestant Christian. My family sometimes went to church, I went to Sunday School (through choice, I loved the first few years of school so more school seemed like the best thing ever), and I went to church on special holidays with my school. We did nativity plays for Christmas and sang religious hymns at school assemblies. I don't remember ever really believing in God or Jesus or any of the bible stories any more than I believed any other childhood stories (who just invites a tiger in to have tea?), but I never really questioned that church was just something that we did. I loved the stories, the singing, the picnics and the parties. I loved the beautiful buildings, the organ pipes that looked so huge to a child, the stained glass windows, the zeal in the voice of the minister, the tradition, the ceremony! Also, it gave some context as to why all my relatives gifted me my weight in chocolate at Easter.

We moved to another area when I was about 9, and our new village didn't have a church. There was one in a nearby village, but we weren't religious enough to bother travelling 2 miles to it. There was no discernible religion in the school and I don't remember missing it, although I did make constant jokes about how the village must be full of demons. Other than watching Monty Python's Life of Brian repeatedly, religion just naturally slipped out of my life. If you have never seen Life of Brian, add it to your list.

Since I already had background knowledge and knew the reasons for celebrating Easter whether I believed them or not, I just kept on with the indulgent and fun traditions and ignored the religious aspect. I ate chocolate, watched rubbish Easter holiday movies on TV, made pastel coloured decorations, and the deep meaning behind it didn't matter. Until suddenly it did.

My nearly 5-year-old needs to know everything. It is both awe-inspiring and exhausting. As Easter is fast approaching, she came to me the other day and asked what for her was a pretty innocuous question:

"Mummy, what is Easter?"

I immediately fell straight into an existential crisis. To be fair, I try to have at least one existential crisis a week to prove to myself how deep I am, but this one was more relevant because a religious existential crisis for an agnostic philosopher hits on many levels. Realistically, we don't really have a reason for why we celebrate Easter. By "we", I mean non-religious people in a society that is founded on Christian morals and still pushes a Christian narrative. We have largely kept the consumerist, gluttonous, frivolous parts of festivals but dropped most of the meaning. Is that okay? Is it okay to pick a seemingly random date every year to eat, drink, be merry and craft decorations featuring bunnies, chicks and eggs?

I have told her some Christian stories out of a basic desire to educate her on different cultures and beliefs. She sang a line of "Away in a Manger" for the local online covid Christmas song, she is aware that some people believe their dead relatives are in heaven (some believe they are reborn as tigers or princesses or worms depending on whether they eat their vegetables and tidy their rooms), and she is aware of angels but I think she sees them in the same category as fairies and unicorns. So theoretically I could tell her about Jesus being crucified on the cross, being buried in a cave behind a rock, and coming back to life again…but I don't want to give her nightmares about gang-murder and zombies. Or I could say we get to eat lots of rich food because we have been starving ourselves for 40 days and 40 nights…oh wait except we didn't do that part of it because it is not fun. We did eat pancakes at the start of the 40 days and 40 nights though. Come to think of it, since I was Protestant as a child we did the pancakes but kind of skimmed over the whole lent part anyway!

But why does an anthropomorphic rabbit hand out chocolate eggs? We have already had recent discussions regarding Santa's motivation, which involved an in-depth analysis of his ability to visit the whole world at once and to know what everyone wants (she noted many of the presents she got were not on her gift list and was very impressed at how well he knows her despite the fact they have only met briefly at Christmas fairs). Somehow a kind old man giving presents to children seems more believable than a bunny maliciously hiding eggs in the garden. Why doesn't he just give the eggs to you? Come to think of it, that is not very Christian behaviour. I bet Jesus never hid chocolate from children. Well, it maybe would fit in with some of the brutal Old Testament stuff but it was all supposed to be nice after Jesus came along. Well, apart from the gang murder and zombies.

In fact, the more that I think about this, the more I realise that the way that I have always actually celebrated Easter has very little to do with the Christian stories I was taught. I don't think Jesus fed the 5000 with hot cross buns and roast lamb.

Our celebrations probably do lean more towards the whole angle of birth and new life that happens with springtime. It all ties in with the farming calendar and she loves farms. Baby animals are born, crops start to grow, flowers bloom, nature renews, she loves that kind of stuff. Eggs obviously symbolise fertility and a lot of the other Easter symbolism involves baby animals. Most of the "fun" parts of Easter were allegedly stolen from paganism so that the Christians could easily assimilate the masses so it definitely ties them both in. Do I need to tell her we are pagans now?

Maybe the explanation for what Easter is doesn't need to tie into deep spiritual meanings. Maybe I can just say it is spring, and we need an excuse for holidays and parties and enjoying the change in the weather. Maybe the fact that I was brought up with meaning that didn't actually mean anything to me isn't what she needs here. Even heathens need some traditions. We have celebrations just to have fun, and we have different symbols and traditions for each one because it would be boring if they were all the same…


"Sorry sweetheart, what were you saying?"

"I asked when Easter is!"

"Oh. Oh okay. I'll just Google that for you."

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