Is the Easter Bunny Ok for Christians?
The Easter Bunny was introduced to the United States all the way back in the 1700s, when German immigrants first brought stories about the about the "Osterhase" (Easter Hare) to Pennsylvania. Since that time, Christians have come to different conclusions about the Easter Bunny; is the bunny a negative distraction from the meaning of Easter, or is he a bit of harmless fun for children? As you weigh up the Easter Bunny’s role in your Easter celebration, keep these thoughts in mind:
Parents shouldn’t lose too much sleep over the Easter Bunny. Many parents report that their children don’t seem too affected by the Easter Bunny, and empirical research also suggest that the stakes are not too high. For example, one study found that children were more likely to believe in the Easter Bunny if their parents encourage them to do so—but also that belief in Santa or the Easter Bunny did not affect a child's interest in other fantasies (Prentice NM, et al. “Imaginary Figures of Early Childhood.” American Journal of Orthopsychiatry. 48(4):618-28). Another study found that even young children believe much more strongly in invisible realities like germs than they believe in the Easter Bunny (Harris PL, et al. “Germs and Angels.” Developmental Science. 9(1):76-96). A child’s belief in the Easter Bunny is unlikely to have any harmful long-term effects.
If you do not want to embrace the Easter Bunny, consider non-traditional ways of dealing with him. Many parents feel forced into a choice between denying the Easter Bunny (and having their child be the one who spoils the fun for others), or embracing the Easter Bunny (which they might be uncomfortable with). But there are other possibilities; for example, parents can raise children without mentioning the Easter Bunny. When children do become aware of the bunny and ask about it, parents can give the Easter Bunny a very limited role in the holiday; they can also explain that there is a secret about the Easter Bunny, and children should ask mom and dad when they think they have discovered it. Eventually, children will realize the secret—the Easter Bunny is not real. This strategy prevents children from “spoiling” the surprise for other children, but children know from the outset that there is a surprise about the bunny that they need to discover.
Respect the views of others. On my desk, I keep a copy of a very old motto that has been adopted by the Moravian Church: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, love.” Most of us would agree that the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is essential to the Christian faith. Most of us would probably agree that the Easter Bunny is not essential. If that’s the case, we should be prepared to extend a little freedom to other Christians to deal with the Easter Bunny as they see fit, and love other Christians regardless of their convictions about that bunny.