We decided to quit celebrating holidays the “traditional” way this year. In the past, we (meaning multiple family members and my husband and I) had indulged our children with gifts from Santa, the Easter Bunny, and even the Tooth Fairy. Although it was fun to see the temporary delight on our kids’ faces when ‘Santa’ came to town, a part of me was a little disappointed in myself…that we (meaning my husband and I) had let the excitement for material things during holiday time go too far; that we had played a part in materializing our children and somewhat distorting their view of some very important religious holidays.
Both my husband and I grew up in Christian homes. In recent years, we both have noticed that religious festivals have taken a backseat to “holiday” celebrations, and that many choose to celebrate holidays abundantly and with little reverence to the historical meaning behind these yearly events. Now by stating this, I am not criticizing how anyone chooses to celebrate their holidays. I am just questioning why anyone would celebrate a holiday, such as Easter, if the person has or desires no ties to the past of its celebration.
Since Easter is just around the corner, I decided to clarify historically (notice I did not mention religion here) WHY Easter is really celebrated to see if I was missing something regarding the upcoming holiday and its hoopla. I found the following on Wikipedia (Yes, sorry for my lack of sources!):
Easter is a Christian festival and holiday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ on the third day after his crucifixion at Calvary as described in the New Testament. Easter is the culmination of the Passion of Christ, preceded by Lent, a forty-day period of fasting, prayer, and penance.
The last week of Lent is called Holy Week, and it contains the days of the Easter Triduum, including Maundy Thursday (also known as Holy Thursday), commemorating the Last Supper and its preceding foot washing, as well as Good Friday, commemorating the crucifixion and death of Jesus.
Easter is also linked to the Jewish Passover by much of its symbolism, as well as by its position in the calendar. In many languages, the words for “Easter” and “Passover” are identical or very similar. Easter customs vary across the Christian world, and include sunrise services, exclaiming the Paschal greeting, clipping the churchand decorating Easter eggs, a symbol of the empty tomb.
Wikipedia also had much to say about the Easter Bunny:
The hare was a popular motif in medieval church art. In ancient times it was widely believed (as by Pliny, Plutarch, Philostratus, and Aelian) that the hare was a hermaphrodite. The idea that a hare could reproduce without loss of virginity led to an association with the Virgin Mary, with hares sometimes occurring in illuminated manuscripts and Northern European paintings of the Virgin and Christ Child. It may also have been associated with the Holy Trinity, as in the three hares motif, representing the “One in Three and Three in One” of which the triangle or three interlocking shapes such as rings are common symbols. …Additionally, according to legend, “a young rabbit who, for three days, waited anxiously for his friend, Jesus, to return to the Garden of Gethsemane, little knowing what had become of Him. Early on Easter morning, Jesus returned to His favorite garden and was welcomed by His animal friend. That evening, when Jesus’ disciples came into the garden to pray, they discovered a path of beautiful larkspurs, each blossom bearing the image of a rabbit in its center as a remembrance of the patience and hope of this faithful little creature.”
After quickly reading through those historical summaries, it was obvious to me that Easter is most definitely a historic and religious celebration! Therefore as a Christian, I certainly do not want my kids to be JUST excited for the gifts and the splendor, but for the true promise of salvation that Easter brings.
And to be honest, I am really SICK of living the lie and playing the expectation game at holiday time.
If you know me well enough, you know I HATE to lie. I am NOT saying that I haven’t lied (because that would not be true!!), but I don’t like to do so. Lying is misleading and manipulative; and it ultimately leads to MORE lying. After some hesitation, we decided to end for good our fibbing regarding the fictional holiday characters, and instead embrace the true gifts to our children that each holiday brings by itself.
I was really expecting the worst…tears, dramatic questions, disappointment. As I sat at the table with my oldest three children sometime after the New Year, I told them that there was something important that Mommy wanted to tell them. I started with Santa and explained that he was not real, that he was an imaginary figure made up to encourage giving and good spirit at Christmastime. I explained that since we are Christian, we celebrate Christmas for the sake of Christ’s birth; and because of what Christ did for us through his birth, life, death, and resurrection, we want to be giving and joyful all year round. At that point, they started to cut in with questions… ”so the Santa we saw at Grandma’s is fake?” someone asked.
“Yes,” I answered.
More questions… “And the ones in the movies aren’t real?”
“No, they aren’t real. Santa is just for fun. Jesus is the reason for all the holidays,” I explained.
“Even the Easter Bunny?” asked my oldest (who I thought may have already been onto us).
“Also fake. Daddy is the Easter Bunny. He gets up really early and puts out the eggs. You see, the Easter Bunny and Santa know what you like because Mom and Dad ARE Santa and the Easter Bunny,” I answered.
Baby #2 then hopefully chimed in, ”I get it, Mom. YOU are Mrs. Claus and Daddy is Santa.”
“No, Dear, we just pretend we are. Our family can still pretend at holiday time, but the characters are not for real. We celebrate Christmas and Easter because Jesus was born and died for our sins,” I continued to review.
Surprisingly, that was it! No tears. Their complete understanding and total acceptance came forth. After a few hugs, they were even on to a new topic! I think I felt almost a sense of relief from them; that they finally understood who these magical people were and how they knew everything about them.
Occasionally now, my kids will tell ME what they want from us for Easter or Christmas, and when Baby #2 lost a tooth she said, “So Mom, you can just pay me now then.”
Pretty awesome. How I love the sound of truth!
By reading this, I hope you decide to examine the importance, focus, and REASON for your holidays. For us, the truth is found in history and its relevance alone is meaningful to our family. Religion has deep historical roots. Even when I attempted to put it aside in a mini quest for different Easter origins, I found no other explanations. Understanding the history of our holidays and the importance of religion to our family’s spiritual health, we decided to minimize the pomp of imaginary characters and the subsequent high expectations of materialism. Like choosing to be Christian, we also choose to celebrate historical religious festivals with less grandeur and more hope and thankfulness.
At our house, we will still pretend to have these fictional characters visit during holiday time because our kids are young and it is fun! We will definitely NOT be focusing on the importance of their visits or gifts, however, but instead on each holiday’s truth and their hope that lights our way…even when we lose it.
John 3:16-17 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him.”