Here comes Peter Cottontail, hopping down the bunny trail…infiltrating the sanctity of your home and hiding your groceries.
Like nearly sixty-nine million others in the United States, I was raised in the Catholic faith. Unsurprising to anyone who knows me, I was not cut out to be a believer. I asked far too many questions of the beleaguered nuns who taught me. I harassed the priest in vain attempts to understand how this particular religion was any more “right” than all the others out there. I infected my classmates with insubordinate thoughts such as:
- “If your spouse dies and you get remarried, which one do you hang out with in Heaven?”
- “If God knows everything before it happens, why didn’t he stop Lucifer from being such a creep?”
- “If murder is a sin, why is it okay to stone blasphemers to death in the bible?”
- “How do you love your neighbor when they blast bad music late at night?”
Needless to say, I bid my final “God bless” to that doctrine long, long ago. I continue to ask myself these lingering questions from time to time (especially the last one since my downstairs neighbor continually plays his acoustic guitar and sings “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn”; quite poorly). My curiosity of the holidays of old make for an especially vexing time for me. Easter is a particular wonder. It’s not that I can’t get behind the whole rising-from-the-dead aspect (I can’t, actually, but I respect those who choose to believe this). It’s far more prosaic than that. It’s The Easter Bunny.
I spent seven years of my life terrified that a giant rabbit would break into my home and do lord knows what. Every token photo you see of me from those years, dressed in my Easter finery, I am wearing a strained grimace and perching precariously on the knee of some polyester nightmare (why did they always smell of dirty socks?) that was presumably squatting in the mall. You can tell I am merely biding my time until I could break away from the Lap of Evil and breathe freely. That bunny scared the bejesus out of me. I enjoyed many other aspects of the holiday, primarily the new fancy dress and hat, and enjoyed chocolate as much any kid. And I loved coloring the hard-boiled eggs in a bath of pastels. In fact, it was the egg that really got me thinking about how creepy this rabbit was. We raised show rabbits when I was a child and none had ever shown any particular interest in eggs. Yet this overgrown rodent got a sick thrill out of stealing my handiwork and hiding them all over the house. It seemed like some kind of twisted game, because if you couldn’t find them…what kind of smell would that produce? And I would more than likely get the blame for that since I liked to hide lunches I didn’t care to eat, which were most of them. Why my eggs? Why not steal my beloved cereal, Golden Grahams, and hide that? Dry cereal doesn’t rot. Or, better yet, steal the crap I hated to eat as a kid like onions or peppers? I would have at least seen that as an act of good-will from some mutant that crept into my home in the middle of the night as I slept. If it could take my eggs what was to stop it from heisting my toys or, worse, my books? Who, exactly, governed this rogue rabbit in its nightly excursions? And why was it rifling through our refrigerator? Troubling thoughts for a youngster. Ultimately, relief came when I woke up especially early on my seventh Easter to find my then eleven year old sister hiding the eggs in our apartment while my mother was passed out on the couch (a completely separate story, that). Faced with the blackmail of my waking our mother, she confessed that it was all a ruse, much to my relief. But the question has haunted me ever since: why do adults continue to dream up ways to make holidays either more fun or, unwittingly, completely terrifying for their children?
Obviously this is completely contingent upon the child you’re stuck with. I may have been the anomaly in my views of the sweet old Easter Bunny. Certainly we hear far more pleasantly nostalgic tales of these childhood figures, else it wouldn’t persist. The fact remains that sometimes these lies (and lies they certainly are) are met with more trauma, or at least confusion, than good. In fact, in viewing other people’s childhood Easter photos, more often than not they wear a face of sheer terror. I’m still baffled at why we even need to make what is supposed to be a religious holiday more “fun” for kids. Why does it need to be fun? The formative years of a person’s life should be filled with fun on a daily basis (cartoons, games, recess, weird food, free room and board, etc.) so a holiday should be met with a certain amount of austerity if it is to be taken seriously. In my (clearly skeptical) mind, when you introduce these figures into a holiday, you only serve to distract and divert from the entire point of the celebration. In the Catholic faith, this is the most holy of holidays. How does The Easter Bunny teach kids about the death and resurrection of Christ and the ultimate salvation of the Christian soul? If you don’t grasp my point, try asking most youngsters today what happens on Easter Sunday. Far more will wax poetic about their basket than the sacrifice made by the Son of God. Now, I love kids. More to the point, I respect them as small people who deserve the courtesy of not being completely confused by the conflicting tales adults shove into their heads. We tell them “Don’t lie”; yet in a few years time they will learn that their parents completely fabricated Santa and that darned Bunny. So what else are adults lying about and why are they all conspiring against the kids? What a way to breed distrust.
Before you peg me as a total Grinch, I should say that I am not entirely opposed to Peter Cottontail. Or Santa or even The Tooth Fairy (which is about as unhygienic a character as I can imagine, but I digress). Rather than focus on these figures so prominently, why not indulge in them as something a bit separate from whatever holiday they are tied into? As arbitrary as they really are in conjunction to these consecrated days, what would be the harm of introducing them to children as something fun apart from whatever religious lesson you’re trying to bestow? My main gripe is expecting kids to respect a holiday when early on you make it about something else entirely. Do you want them to embrace Jesus or chocolate? I’m pretty sure biting the head off a chocolate Jesus with a marshmallow center would be considered blasphemy, so it’s probably best to pick a side.
And so as Easter approaches once again, you will find me respectfully distancing myself from the festivities. It’s not that I don’t wish you all a happy and healthy Easter Sunday, or that I shun your belief system entirely, or even a distaste for jelly beans. And I do miss a nice fancy easter dress.
It’s that damned giant rabbit.