Easter Sunday also marks the day when Christians around the world feel most compelled to attend church services to give thanks and show off their children. A time when children everywhere get dressed up and walk to the car asking, “Why do we have to go today? What’s so special about this Sunday?” When many adults have their children toss larger bills in the collection plate so the usher will smile and think, “Cute kids and a very generous offering from mom and dad.” For many churches, Easter Sunday is considered their “Holiday Retail Season.”
“Let’s hope for good weather on Easter Sunday, Father O’Brien. You know, we work 51 weeks a year in anticipation of a strong Easter response. Fortunately, people can’t attend here on Sunday and then purchase the same experience Monday on the Internet.”
And perhaps you’ve heard the old saying, “Don’t build the church for Easter.” Well, it’s good advice. If you do, you’ll have at least half of your pews empty the following Sunday, and the collection plate will take an even bigger hit than that. Christians can be fickle.
Stories of Christians being tossed to the lions have lost much of their intimidation factor. And even though we still have millions of Christians and thousands of lions, they seldom get together anymore for a good ol’ one-sided picnic. It’s gotten to the point that bringing Tupperware in considered naïve, and even cause for ridicule.
“Remember when Augustus and Ruth were invited to the Coliseum last year for the big party? Yeah, well, when’s the last time ye saw either one of them? It’s a bad deal, I tell ye.”
The use of song books also reaches an annual high, in an effort to save people from switching back and forth between singing loudly and humming softly.
Then h-m-m h-m-m h-m-m,
My Saviour God, h-m-m h-m-m,
How great Thou art!
How great Thou art!
Easter is also a time of great symbolism. The Stations of the Cross. The Crucifix. The Last Supper. The Tomb containing the Body of Christ. The Pieta. The Easter Bunny.
“I’m sorry. What…”
That’s right, the Easter Bunny. That cute, cuddly little creature that hops around with a basket of colored eggs, hiding them occasionally for the amusement of children. And -- while not mentioned anywhere in scripture -- we have come to revere the names “Peeps” and “Cadbury” as icons of the Season.
“How,” you may ask, “did the bunny become so closely associated with Easter?” Good question. Well, as it turns out…
The hare was a popular motif in medieval church art. In ancient times, it was widely believed that a hare could reproduce without loss of virginity. This 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, Eggs, like rabbits and hares, are fertility symbols of antiquity.
Well, okay then. That makes perfect sense. The association with the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Christ Child and the Holy Trinity bestows high stature on the ancient rabbit. However, if you were to study a few of the referenced paintings, you would quickly discover the rabbits of antiquity: were not pink and yellow, did not hop around with a basket of colorful eggs and, most certainly, did not hide said baskets behind sofas for discovery by sugar-obsessed children. I mean, where did that whole gig come from?
Glad you asked. As it turns out…
The Easter Bunny (also called the Easter Rabbit or Easter Hare) is a folkloric figure and symbol of Easter, depicted as a rabbit bringing Easter eggs. Originating among German Lutherans, the "Easter Hare" originally played the role of a judge, evaluating whether children were good or disobedient in behavior at the start of the season of Eastertide. The Easter Bunny is sometimes depicted with clothes. In legend, the creature carries colored eggs in his basket, candy, and sometimes also toys to the homes of children, and as such shows similarities to Santa Claus or the Christkind, as they both bring gifts to children on the night before their respective holidays. The custom was first mentioned in Georg Franck von Franckenau's De ovis paschalibu (About Easter Eggs) in 1682 referring to a German tradition of an Easter Hare bringing Easter eggs for the children.
Well, whada’ ya’ know? It was those crafty German Lutherans who took it upon themselves to create a symbol for Easter that would work in direct competition with Santa Claus. Apparently, The Lutherans, feeling in some way slighted by Ol’ St. Nick, chose Easter as the appropriate time to introduce a new symbol for making children stress about their behavior, lest they incur the wrath of a vengeful hare.
What the fu…
Well, despite the distractions that have come to accompany the Lenten Season and Easter, please do attend church with your family this Easter Sunday for the sheer joy knowing Christ loves you now and for all eternity. And pay close attention to the church itself. After all, it was built for Easter.
How about that?