Easter holiday can be quite scary for kids

Published 8:37 am Sunday, March 31, 2013

Column: Pass the Hot Dish, by Alexandra Kloster

It’s that time of year when children fear the murky dusk and the creepy blush of early dawn, that holiday when sugar buzzes and the threat of pastel-hued monsters leave tiny tots bleary-eyed and sleepless.

Yes, I’ve looked at a calendar. I know ’tis the season of eggs, not pumpkins. It’s Easter, and that scares the Peeps out of me.

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It began as so many horror stories do, with a giant bunny. Friends, don’t talk to me about nighttime ghouls and ghosts. April mornings are scarier than any October dreamscape, and there is nothing more disturbing than a visit from a rabbit of elephantine proportions.

In 1976, I was only 5 and hadn’t yet seen the movie “Harvey,” about an imaginary, oversized rabbit, and adopted the motto, “Whatever’s OK by Jimmy Stewart is OK by me.” My parents, or the Easter Bunny, depending on where you are in the evolution of your willing suspension of disbelief, presented me with a smiling stuffed bunny twice as big as I was.

I wouldn’t touch it.

The leering, pink lagomorph — no kidding, I thought rabbits were rodents, too — looked like the combined creative influence of David Lynch and Beatrix Potter. Somewhere there is a picture of me standing in front of it with an expression of unblinking terror on my face.

Mercifully, the next Easter brought only bunnies of the sugary persuasion. Frustrated that my gap-toothed grill couldn’t bite through solid milk chocolate, I stuck my foil-wrapped rabbit in the microwave to soften him up. I pressed my nose against the door of the whirring oven, like all good ’70s children courting mild radiation poisoning, and watched as my bunny burst into flames. Curses. Foiled again.

“This is not fun,” I cried. “Easter is not fun!”

Clearly, secular Easter was not working for me, so my parents decided it was time to teach me the real meaning of the day. After all, Easter is the Super Bowl of the Christian religious calendar. It’s the zenith of God’s sacrifice and Christ’s promise.

“Come again?” I asked when my father explained what went down between Holy Thursday and Easter Sunday. “Once more for those of us in the cheap seats,” I implored.

Patiently, he began again, recounting the last supper, the crucifixion, and the joyous resurrection. Eventually, after the religious whiplash wore off, the Nicene Creed, which I’d learned by rote, filled with meaning, and the words became animated with wonder, sadness and awe. The most burdensome philosophical puzzle of the ages settled on my narrow shoulders: Blind faith is easy. Informed faith is hard.

With a little effort and imagination you can marry the secular to the sacred at Christmas. You can make a pretty compelling case for St. Valentine’s Day as well; even Halloween if you’re hip to All Saints Day, but Easter is not such a simple fit.

Accepting that a big bunny travels the globe leaving candy, and the occasional Shaun Cassidy album, nestled in cellophane blades of grass that mothers vacuum away until Christmas tree needles take their place, doesn’t quite jive with the leap of trust it takes to allow that God sent his only son to die so that we may live and that same son rose from the dead and ascended into heaven.

Sacred Easter was tricky for my 7-year-old mind to process. Aspects of the story didn’t seem so far removed from those Saturday “Creature Feature” matinees my parents insisted were nothing but Hollywood nonsense. I admit it took me a while to completely believe it.

I don’t feel bad about my youthful doubt. Bigger brains than mine have long grappled with the theological veracity of Christ’s life on earth, but believe I do. My religious tradition is predicated upon the solemn events we observe during Holy Week and the celebration of Easter, but mainly I believe because the proof surrounds me.

Rain makes the flowers grow. Fire regenerates the forests. Everywhere in nature life begets death begets life. I see it in the spring — yes, even in Minnesota — and I see it in my children’s eyes, which light my days where darkness used to live. Shadows give way to sun, and the promise of Christ glows bright in an often cruel world. That is Easter. It’s more than bunnies, more than candy. It’s the greatest of gifts made real.


Woodbury resident Alexandra Kloster appears each Sunday. She may be reached at alikloster@yahoo.com, and her blog is at alexandrakloster.com.