Easter Bunny: Fun Tradition or Satan's Gopher Boy?

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Easter week is one of the best of the year. Spring is in the air. Popcorn is popping on the apricot trees. The weather is getting warm enough that tonight I grilled hot dogs on the patio with the kids and none of us even wore a jacket. (Take that, all you snow covered Utahns!)

Because it is Easter we can look forward to sacrament meetings that are focused on the Savior and the hope of eternal life that is offered to each of us through His redeeming sacrifice. I think good sacrament meetings will help pacify some of the LDS North Carolinians who are still a little miffed that General Priesthood was scheduled smack dab in the middle of UNC's Final Four game last Saturday. I couldn't tell if some of the "amen's" at Priesthood session were for the speakers or for the results the UNC-Villanova game being tracked on about a dozen Blackberries in the chapel.

From a food standpoint, Easter is great because Peeps are plentiful in the pantry. The Dollar Store is selling solid chocolate bunnies that weight about six pounds and are covered in that scarey white powdery stuff, but sometimes quantity trumps quality. Unhatched chicken babies are hanging out in the fridge just waiting to be hard boiled, colored, hidden in the back yard, and ultimately be deviled and devoured.

And speaking of the devil......

The downside of Easter week is the awkward uncomfortableness when the topic of the Easter Bunny gets broached in mixed company. There are three different camps that LDS people - especially parents of young children - fall into when discussing the Easter Bunny.

Camp #1 - The Nostalgics: This group of parents loves all of the traditions, stories, nostalgia and excitement of every holiday, Easter included. They want their kids to believe in fictional characters like Santa Clause, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, Leprechauns, and The United Nations (oops, that last one just slipped out.) The Nostalgics remember how exciting it was when they were kids laying awake in bed on Christmas Eve thinking that every bump, knock, or creak was really Santa landing his sled on the roof and shimmying down the chimney. These parents know that their children will eventually have to grow up, get acne and work at McDonalds, so they are going to do everything possible to help their children believe in Santa, the Easter Bunny, etc. during those magical, wonderful childhood years.

There is a subset of The Nostalgics who want their children to believe in fictional holiday characters so that instead of doing real parenting they can simply scream threats like, "Stop hitting your sister or Santa won't give you anything this year, dang it!" Or, "If you fart in the minivan one more time the Easter Bunny will come up into your bed and attack you in your sleep. He has rabies, you know? His little teeth are pointy and sharp, too. You want that? YOU WANT THAT!!??"

Camp #2 - The Fundamentalists: This group essentially tells their children the truth about Santa, the Easter Bunny, etc. during the baby's name and blessing. They go out of their way to make sure that their children are not deceived about the reality - or lack thereof - of these silly "secular" traditions. They rent movies from the library like, Elmo's World: Santa Exposed! and The Veggie Tales Movie : That Dollar Under Your Pillow Came From Dad's Wallet!

There is one plain and simple reason that The Fundamentalists go out of their way to make sure their kids are not fooled by a fat, bearded present deliveryman or chocolate-bearing rodents - they are afraid that when their child finds out the truth about Santa that it will destroy their budding faith in the Almighty. These parents have concluded that one day their children will wake up and say, "If mom and dad lied to us about Santa and the Easter Bunny, then are they must also lying about Heavenly Father! And Joseph Smith! And John Stockton!" The Fundamentalists fear that the day their children learn the truth they will respond by going Goth, dying their hair blue and ditching Primary for underground raves. You will never see a robotic Rudolph with the moving, mechanical head grazing in the Fundamentalists' front yard.

Camp #3 - The Politicians: Just as John Kerry voted for the war before he voted against it, The Politicians do their best to pull a little bit of logic from both The Nostalgics and The Fundamentalists. These parents want their children to believe in Santa, Easter Bunny, etc. because it is a fun part of childhood, but they do not want to lie to their children, either. So The Politicians read books like The Polar Express but never actually say that Santa is real or that the Easter Bunny could attack them in their sleep. They perpetuate the myth, but never actually fully endorse it.

I have a number of smart, loving, wonderful friends and family members who fall into each of these three camps. You probably do, too. So who is right? Please please vote in the poll and post some comments to help me out on this one. Please refrain from bashing or demeaning the groups you disagree with because I would hate to see people get bent out of shape over an Easter blog post.

As for me, I'm a Politician.

In fact, I told the 7-year-old Normal Mormon Boy the truth about the Tooth Fairy a few weeks back after he kept badgering me with questions about her existence. The boy backed me into a corner and I didn't want to lie to him. Since I was coming clean I threw Santa and the Easter Bunny into the conversation as well.

To be honest, a little piece of me as a dad died that day. It made me realize that my son is growing up way too fast and before I know it he is going to be baptized, then morph into an awkward, gangly Deacon, and then ultimately get a super-secret mission call to a predominantly Muslim country that church headquarters will deny ever issuing. We will have to say he is serving in Iowa, but in reality.......

Assuming, of course, that my son still has faith in anything spiritual after learning that I was the one who put two dollars worth of change under his pillow because I had run out of ones.

This whole post turned out to be much more complex than I had originally intended. Please comment with your two cents to help give me some additional perspective.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go destroy a package of Peeps!

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Michelle said...

Wait, how much exactly does the NMB get out of the tooth fairy? (My oldest is 6, so I haven't been down disappointment alley with her yet.)

9:27 PM

Michelle - He gets $2 per baby tooth. I figured that since I got $1 as a kid in the early eighties, we should bump the NMB up a level for inflation. No money for permanent teeth, though. I could actually see him doing a cost-benefit analysis of knocking out a permanent tooth or two just for the cash.

9:39 PM
Mark + Tiffany said...

I think I am a "politician"...I'm not going to lie to them about it, but I'm OK with them believing it while they are young. Granted, I don't actually have any kids yet, but it's how I feel. My step-mom is a "Fundamentalist", and my 7 yo sister never had a chance to believe in it...I see her point of view, but I don't really agree with it. I think it takes out some of the fun of being a child.

9:45 PM

No need to spoil the magic and sweetness of childhood. Believing in those stories was so fun for me as a kid. Kids eventually figure things out on their own. I kept up the tooth fairy thing so long with my oldest that I actually had to finally come out and ask him if he really believed! lol He didn't he was keeping up the act for me! :) I now have kids on both sides of the story and I have to say that it is fun to have both. I love being able to share some Santa secrets with my older two and still see the excitement in my youngest ones eyes. It also comes in handy when you are old and forgetful, not me, and buy your youngest daughter the moive BOLT for her Easter Basket and you are so excited you tell your middle child who is 13 about it and she says "Uh, mom? She HATED that movie! Remember?" just sayin' if that were to happen it would be really helpful so the 7 year old doesn't wake up Easter morning thinking that the Easter Bunny has lost it. :) With all that said I think I am a politician too. :)

10:03 PM
Kristi said...

I am sort of a fundamentalist, but not for the reason that you gave at all. Firstly, I just don't want to lie to my kids. Secondly, I think it's important for children to understand the real reason for Christmas and Easter--Christ. Third, I think that figures like Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy have a tendency to engender greed in children because holidays and other life events are more focused on "what do I get?" I also think that there are plenty of ways for childhood to be fun and exciting without any of these characters. I never believed in any of them and I think I had a pretty happy childhood.

10:05 PM
acte gratuit said...

I'm right there with in category #3. When my oldest son was 3 or 4 and we were walking away from the ward Christmas party, he starting questioning me about Santa. I didn't want to lie to him so I said "Actually honey, Santa isn't real." He started crying and saying "YES HE IS!"
So we left it at that. The boys believe in Santa and when they start grilling me for details, I say, "Hey! Look over there!" and run out of the room. (They LOVE The Polar Express AND the Rudolf movies which is where they get their info.)

I think I'll use similar methods when it comes time to discuss the birds and the bees: "Hey! Why don't you go watch "Growing Pains" --gotta go!"

The Easter Bunny, however, I cannot endorse. So although my kids are free to think what they wish, they will not find me giving credit for their Easter bounty to a large creepy bunny. Sorry kids, the egg stops here!

10:11 PM
acte gratuit said...

Oh, and I think I should note that we DO try to reinforce the true meaning of Easter and Christmas at every opportunity. But I do think there is room for both the secular traditions and the spiritual during childhood.

10:16 PM
Mrs. M said...

DH and I are fundamentalists, and like Kristi, we think our children will still have happy childhoods. They love "playing Santa" when we give gifts at Christmas time. I don't think we've ever done Easter baskets; there's enough candy at Primary and school and elsewhere.

10:25 PM
carmar76 said...

As an adult, I LOVE fairy tales, which essentially Santa, EB, and Tooth Fairy are. Why is it okay for kids to watch Sleeping Beauty or a talking Mouse, why do we encourage imagination, if "believing" in Santa & the like (make-believe) will screw them up for life? Being able to determine what is make-believe and what is true later in life is part of growing up.

One thing, tho - I think if parents choose to tell their kids the truth from birth, they should make sure to impart compassion for those children who do believe in these fantasy figures, and tell their children not to "ruin" it for others. Kids will totally figure it out eventually, they'll work out the logistics. It's much more traumatizing on them when they find out from other kids. Especially when those other kids look down on "believers."

Sorry, longer than I thought it would be! And still not fully what I want to say. Hopefully it makes sense, tho.

11:03 PM
Chernobyl said...

I am totally a fundamentalist, but as mentioned above - for different reasons than you assume. My mother is a die hard traditionalist about holidays and I am and always have been very stubborn and rebellious to her ways. It kills her to know that I don't carry on her obsessive holiday antics, and each time her eyebrows scrunch up at my rebellion - I smile a little inside. Childish? yes. But never the less amusing. Don't worry - my children insist that I'm wrong anyway. It's a win-win! - Cheryl

11:59 PM
Carolyn said...

We fall in with the Fundamentalists. And actually I never even considered that if I lie to my kids about Santa that they might think I'm lying about God too. We chose to be up front with our kids about all this fairytale stuff because I just don't feel comfortable lying to my kids. Not even for the sake of fun and tradition. We still have tons of fun with holidays and traditions. And we all get to have fun pretending to be Santa or the Easter Bunny.

5:28 AM
bioman75 said...

No problem with the Santa thing as long as it is not the focus. Differently worth threat value for being good.

Hard time with Easter. We do any easter egg hunting on Saturday--I believe it is too special to have anything interfere.

My son (7) plays along but he knows for the most part it is not completely true.

6:17 AM
Meredith said...

Since I don't have kids, I'm not sure which one I'll be. But I suspect a politician. I never believed that the tooth fairy or the Easter bunny were real (my parents did a kind of wink, wink thing with that-"Okay kids, go downstairs while the Easter bunny hides the eggs!" We all knew it was them). As for Santa, I wasn't at all crushed to find out he wasn't real. After all, he only filled my stocking (with candy, basically) and gave me one present. Everything else was from my mom and dad. I just don't think they wanted him to get credit for their work. That's probably what I'll do, too.

6:20 AM

Kristi - You bring up some excellent points that I really should have covered in my post. The purpose of Christmas and Easter are to remember the birth and the atonement of Jesus Christ. If taken too far, traditions can distract from the true meaning of the holidays and potentially foster greed in young children. If handled appropriately, holiday traditions can build family unity, be fun for the kids, and provide them with ample opportunities to learn to be generous and selfless, which are also important gospel lessons. I think the key to holiday traditions, as with anything, is finding the right balance for your children and family. See, I'm a total Politician.

7:14 AM
Maren Hansen said...

I consider myself a John Birch Nostalgic because I sorta still believe in Santa too... Sad, since I am now a parent and wrapping gifts at 2am Christmas Eve. This has gotta be one of your best posts yet... :)

7:18 AM
Jolyn said...

I figure, what's the big deal if you play up the imaginary for a while. Use the Santa and Easter bunny threats. They are only kids once. My daughter gets so excited about Santa and the Easter bunny. I don't think she's going to remind me for the rest of my life about how the moment she found out they were fictional was the moment she stopped believing in me. And while my kids are too small to have lost any teeth, I will tell them about the Tooth Fairy, too, and leave them some moolah. Don't get me wrong on Easter and Christmas either. My kids know that it's about the Savior. Not presents or peeps. Those are just added bonuses.

7:24 AM
Jill L said...

I think there's plenty of room for secular tradition along with the truth. I think it's hard for children to understand that "today is a special day" when they can't see or touch the special thing. Our EB comes tonight and we will have a special Easter dinner on Sunday. It won't be something huge, but I hope it helps them recognize that this weekend is different from other weekends.

I remember finding out about Santa as a kid and I was so sad because my little brothers and sisters still believed and I felt like I was missing out on the magic and make believe. All doors of childhood swing only one way... it was time to grow up and move life along.

7:28 AM
Sandy said...

Great post - we're politicians, too. The kids believe in Santa, but I'm realizing that its a safety hazard these days to have my kids believe that every fat guy in a red suit and a white beard who wants them to sit on his lap is a nice guy who will give them toys with no strings attached...this past Christmas I talked to them about who the real St. Nick was and why Santa is part of Christmas...and that PARENTS are Santa's helpers and the Santa's around town are people dressed up trying to bring the Christmas spirit to others...but I never came out and said Santa wasn't real or that Santa doesn't bring them anything. They still believe in Santa, just not strangers:)

7:30 AM
Buyog / Ryan said...

I'm totally a politician. I hate lying to my kids, and that whole "will they think I lied about God?" thing has definitely crossed my mind, but DW and I feel the secular traditions of the sacred holidays are okay if we shift them a bit... the easter bunny comes on Saturday at our house, and we treat Christmas Eve as the sacred holiday, so the next morning doesn't displace it.
And whenever my 10-year-old corners me about SC, EB, or the tooth fairy, I always respond with a question: "well honey, do YOU think they're real?" So far she has chosen to keep believing.

7:37 AM
Megan said...

Hey! Where's the NSFK warning on this post?! Sheesh...

I don't know exactly where we fit. We have Santa and the Tooth Fairy although #1 (age 10) seems to be close to logically figuring it out. Even if he suspects, he's still holding on to the magic.

As for Easter. I'm cheep... err, I mean cheap. Our FHE Monday will have us hitting the clearance candy. Tomorrow night we'll be doing the Easter story cookies (that end up making meringue/divinity cookies) devotional. We'll color eggs because it's fun, but we won't hide them.

Luckily for my kids, it's the first year we've lived in our own home... and the Easter Bunny may actually deposit a chocolate candy near their pillows. But it'd be the first time he's ever "found" our house.

(BTW, my in-home chemist recently explained to me that the white stuff chocolate gets is the fat drying out of it. Does that mean we should scrape it off and save calories, etc??? LOL!)

9:02 AM
The Peton's said...

Just the other day, my 6 year old asked if the easter bunny was real. I responded like a politician and said, "I don't know - what do you think?" She thought, then said, "The easter bunny probably just lives with the tooth fairy." Myth perpetuated.

10:25 AM
Melanie said...

We are politicians. We don't really talk about Santa or the Easter bunny. We just let the kids think what they want, but we wouldn't lie to them.
For Easter this year, we are doing baskets and eggs. However, they will be from mom and dad...if there is any Easter candy left by Sunday morning!
Easter candy is my weakness! Have you ever had the Cadbury mini eggs? They totally kick peeps trash! (peeps are gross)

10:56 AM
Pappy Yokum said...

Politician all the way. And, as each of our daughters has come to find out the truth, we tell them that they are now entitled to share in the "adult" understanding of Santa, etc and that part of that includes not destroying the traditions of others by sharing what they know with other children that still believe. Each one, while disappointed in finding out the truth, has also felt a sense of maturity as they cross that threshold into a more adult world.

11:48 AM
Vincetastic said...

I guess I fall into the Nostagic category, this is a great post. Easter is one of my favorite holidays. It’s another excuse to paint eggs, hide them, and dress up in a huge bunny suit which somehow earns you the adoration of young children. I’m not sure how the bunny came into being a symbol, but somehow it has stuck. I made a list on my website of the top ten reasons I love about Easter: http://www.toptentopten.com/topten/reasons+i+love+easter. You can vote and also add your own reasons.

11:48 AM
Danielle said...

What is someone that is a mix of nostalgic and politician? Because that's where I am. So I guess I'm 'other.'

Great post! Loved it.

11:54 AM
Danielle said...

Oh, and these comments are hysterical also!

11:54 AM
Rorie said...

Wow, you got $1 for your teeth? I got a quarter.

I think I'm a politician. Growing up, I don't ever remember believing in Santa, but I don't remember not believing in him either. Same with the Easter bunny or the Tooth Fairy, or whatever else. I think I'll go that same route with my kids.

12:06 PM

Danielle - You asked, "What is someone that is a mix of nostalgic and politician?"

The answer: Strom Thurmond.

(Somebody please wake up Ed McMahon so that he can give me a "Hi-O!" and laugh hysterically for me.)

12:12 PM
Karen said...

I'm sort of a modified Nostaligic. I want to teach my kids about Santa and have fun with the Tooth Fairy (still on the fence about the Easter Bunny) but I don't plan to perpetuate the "lie" unnecessarily. When they figure it out, they figure it out. But until then, I'm totally using that threat of charcoal in their stockings to keep them from hitting each other!

2:38 PM
go boo boo said...

fundamentalist, except I kind of forgot that the easter bunny was "secret" too, when I bought the goods with my very believing 5 year old today..oops! see but I will go with the theory that if they don't "believe" and/or pretend to for their old momma they won't get anything...horrible huh?

8:33 PM
Erika said...

I'm a Nostalgic. I'll do the Easter Bunny and Santa for as long as my kids pretend to believe for me. :) Right now they are 2 and 4 and there is no need to pretend-- they do believe. My mom told me when I was 8 and I wasn't even asking! I wasn't happy to learn the truth, but it was fun to stay up late and help stuff stockings! I loved it and I'm sure my kids will love it as well.

Also, my dad once asked me the difference between knowing that the Easter Bunny and Santa were real and knowing that the Gospel and Christ were real. The answer is the Spirit. Most likely, you have brought your children up in such a way that they won't be questioning God when they find out that you "lied" about imaginary characters, because they will have the Spirit to testify of the truthfulness of the Gospel. So, I'm not worried about that particular aspect of it.

11:36 PM
Jen said...

My husband is a Nostalgic. He puts out the cookies and milk and gets our kids whatever they ask Santa for. Personally, I don't care if they believe or not. I won't spoil it, but I don't feed the myth. Does that make me a Politician?

12:17 AM
runningfan said...

My husband and I are definitely politicians. We, too, have a seven-year-old who is still "innocent," but I'm afraid that bubble is going to burst one of these days. Perhaps Sunday. Who knows. The more difficult issue is being a good politician when it comes to answering the questions: "How is that baby in your tummy coming out?"

12:36 AM
Lindsay said...

Easter is one of my favorite holidays! This is the second year the bunny has come to our house, and my daughter is so excited. She pretty much lives in a pretend world right now--she's always asking if she can go to Special Agent Oso's house--so I don't see the harm in letting her believe in the Easter Bunny and Santa. Eventually she'll figure it out, but I don't want to take the magic out of childhood. Apparently I am in the minority.

9:09 AM
Jen said...

I guess you'd say I'm a politition, leaning toward traditionalist. I LOVE the traditions and stories that go along with the secular side of the holidays. I will do everything I can to perpetuate their belief. That being said, I will not lie to them. I say things like, "Of course the spirit of Santa is real!" It's not a lie because I believe that the spirit of Santa is the spirit of giving. However, we focus very strongly on the spiritual side as well. We talk constantly of Christ, his birth, his life, and his sacrifice for us. My children know the reason we celebrate the seasons and love their Savior. I think it's a win-win. The mommy in me died a little the day my oldest figured it out and my middle one is well on her way to the "truth". But I hope to hold on to the youngest for a very long time!

11:41 AM
Amber said...

I am from a family of politicians. When my sibs and I asked my mom if Santa was real, she would say "What do you think?" If we said no, she said you're right. If we said yes, she said you're right. I stopped believing in 1st grade. My brother stopped believing in 6th grade. I think he thought there would be no more presents if he stopped believing.

3:04 PM
dave said...

For a "husband" blog, there sure are a lot of women commentators. Anyways, this was probably your funniest post.

7:35 PM
normal mormon wife said...

So the NMH and I kinda disagree on this point, which I think was the reason behind this post. He wants to perpetuate the magic, but I would rather be more up front with with the kids. Especially about the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny.

Santa gets a little trickier. One of the things I love about Santa is that it's a way for parents to serve our kids anonymously. But I would love to be a minimalist about the material side of Christmas. The NMH has too many fond memories of the excitement of coming down the stairs on Cmas day to let that happen.

Oh, and Melanie, I'm SOOO with you on the Cadbury mini eggs. We have them in our house, but I always eat the majority (all?) of them before the NMH gets a chance.

8:02 PM
kannie said...

Where I do know some fundamentalists, I'm totally a politician; I subscribe to a description actually best articulated by Dr. Laura, LOL - when they're old enough to understand, you explain that it's a fun game that Mommies & Daddies play with their kiddos to celebrate, and now that they know the secret, they get to be in on the fun, too! I think that's a GREAT approach.

I'm a little conflicted on Sunday Easter baskets, (those darn fundamentalist leanings!), but as we were home coughing our guts out anyway, well, it was a rather unceremonious Easter anyway.

And of course, this is on top of what one teaches about the real meaning. Hollow bunnies and eggs are great teaching materials, too!

9:33 AM
Quixotic Healer said...

My parents were Politicians with Fundamentalist tendencies. Mostly when we were tiny, Easter was a Sunday thing, and the Easter Bunny was a Saturday night thing.

We did have a few years of "harvest festivals" instead of halloween, but when our fundamentalist friends moved and we didn't have anyone to have festivals with anymore, we went back to halloween.

And I only got 50 cents from the tooth fairy in the early nineties (and that was occasionally a day late!)

1:16 PM
Angel Youngblood-Chick , Abilene ,TX said...

Woo Stop Stop . What do you mean no Santa, no Easter Bunny? I am 61 and my Children age 47 to 27 know I BELIEVE. Of course one grandson age 21 informed me at Christmas his Dad told him that everyone must humor Granny as she still hadn't been told. And now my GGkids will have someone who believes with them. LOL So I gues I am both 2 and 3. Such a fun post. Rmrmber you are only as old as you chose to be. Or maybe I am juat into my third childhood.
Angel the old lady who still believes

2:41 PM

Honestly- I have no memories of being crushed that Santa wasn't real. (Maybe I blocked them out because they were so traumatic...) I think that "lying" is a harsh term. It's not mean-spirited or harmful to let kids believe in magic. I still do. I think when kids ask, you should tell them the truth so I guess I fall into the politician category. I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. Or burn it. Whatever.

p.s. Though I don't remember Santa, I can recall thinking that the Easter Bunny was cheap because he used the eggs WE COLORED and hid them. Can't the rabbit spring for a dozen eggs? Sheesh.

p.p.s. This is the first time I have commented, so I am officially no longer a lurker. Love the blog, NMH!

3:33 PM
irvy said...

Most definitely the politician. But we "pretend" Santa and EB all year. Daddy is Santa and Mommy is EB - we haven't gotten to the tooth fairy yet. My daughter has a very vivid imagination and so she will go up to my husband and say "Santa? What are you doing today?" and my dh plays along.

I remember believing and I remember the moment of discovery and they are precious memories to me and made me feel loved and cherished.

Santa expecially represents a spirit of giving and if you represent him properly it can teach children about giving not just receiving.

1:11 PM
Lucille said...

I might end up taking a fundamentalist approach, I guess. I don't see any point. I don't think a child will enjoy his or her gifts any less if they came from Mom and Dad.

I wasn't traumatized when I first noticed that the Santa at family Christmas parties was one of my cousins, though.

9:05 AM
NaughtyLola said...

I am a politician...I can't lie but there is an added excitment when the kids believe in Santa or the Easter Bunny. Mom and Dad are just that but Santa Clause...is magical. Kids can be happy without believing in Santa but I think that it's the magic that really fuels and perpetuates the excitement for them.

11:10 AM
Anonymous said...

23 Ye were also in the beginning with the Father; that which is Spirit, even the

Spirit of truth;
24 And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they

are to come;
25 And whatsoever is more or less than this is the spirit of that wicked one

who was a liar from the beginning.

1:11 PM