Should Catholic Parents Allow Their Children To Believe In The Easter Bunny?

by Easter, March

Easter is the holiest day of the Christian calendar, a time of prayerful reflection and celebration, commemorating of the death and resurrection of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amidst our holiday festivities, however, the whimsical figure of the Easter Bunny—colorful and charming yet completely devoid of religious significance— often comes hopping into the spotlight, especially for children. This leads to an important question for Catholic parents:

Should the Easter Bunny be encouraged or forbidden in Catholic households?

After all, is he even remotely compatible with Catholic teachings? 

This question is even more salient in today’s cultural milieu, where secularism increasingly seeks to overshadow and even obliterate our most sacred religious beliefs. 

Generally speaking, Catholicism does not rigidly oppose the inclusion of secular symbols like the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus in holiday celebrations. Indeed, many Catholic parents believe that such characters can even be seen as vehicles to add excitement to these holy days, thereby reinforcing their deeper, joyful meaning, and making them more memorable for children. Nevertheless, serious caution must be advised.

Firstly, parents must not be blind to the ongoing culture war, recognizing that our deepest beliefs are under constant attack. This awareness should always guide how fictitious characters are contextualized and introduced to children.

Secondly, in order to ensure that our core religious beliefs are not marginalized or compromised in any way, the true meaning of Easter must always remain at the forefront of a child’s catechesis. Easter celebrates Christ’s resurrection from the dead and the opening of the gates of Heaven—this is the very cornerstone of the Christian Faith. Parents must be vigilant that this profound truth is not lost amid the colorful chaos of chocolate treats and dyed eggs.

One of the ways we can accomplish this goal without sacrificing the fun and playfulness offered by characters like the Easter Bunny is to “adopt” them for our own use. Just as the real Saint Nicholas is easily associated with the fake Santa Claus, so too can we draw parallels between the Easter Bunny and the true meaning of Easter.

For example, the Easter Bunny has a long history, with origins that can be traced back to pre-Christian, pagan festivals. Rabbits, known for their prolific breeding, have long been associated with themes of rebirth, renewal, and fertility—elements that are also central to the Christian faith. Interestingly, the fertility of rabbits also reflects the broader Christian calling of Christ’s mandate to “go forth and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19), which is basically a command to be “fruitful and multiply,” when it comes to spreading the faith.

Still, while this connection is true enough, it is a rather awkward one to impart to children. 

I’ve attempted a different approach in my new children’s book, The Story of the First Easter Bunny, about a small rabbit who lived in Biblical times, two thousand years ago. This illustrated rhyming book tells the tale of a bunny who embarks who on a selfless journey to find Jesus and culminates in his witness of Christ’s resurrection.

The layer of symbolism I’ve chosen to emphasize is the fact that rabbits have famously large ears. This striking anatomical trait lends itself happily to a profound teaching of the Gospels— namely, the necessity of being attentive to the Word of God. In several passages of the New Testament, Jesus focuses on the importance of listening. For instance, in Matthew 11:15, and Mark 4:9, Jesus says, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” 

In my children’s book, the bunny’s enormous ears are not just a physical attribute but equate to spiritual receptivity. The bunny’s attentiveness to the words of Jesus highlights the importance of listening to and following God’s will. The book ends with the following verse:

“Because of his passionate faith in the man, 

the fame of the bunny spread through the land. 

And so we’ve remembered for two thousand years, 

this small Easter Bunny with very large ears.” 

This interpretation offers a fresh and meaningful way to connect the secular symbol of the bunny with the profound religious significance of Easter. Thus, while the Easter Bunny itself is not inherently Catholic, it can be effectively employed by Catholic parents as a “spice” to add to the festivity of the Easter celebration, without replacing the “meat” of the Easter banquet. Such an approach not only preserves the joy, innocence and fun of childhood but also instills a deeper, richer, understanding of the Christian faith to children. An additional benefit, of course, is that, by essentially “baptizing” the Easter Bunny, we can cleverly strike back at the secular culture and turn its worldly message to our advantage. 

This is always a joy to do—especially on the day we commemorate Christ’s ultimate victory over the world. 

Can Catholics believe in the Easter bunny?
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Image: Photo by S&B Vonlanthen on Unsplash

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