“Mommy, what is Easter?”

As I find happens to me all the time lately, Benjamin asked me a question today that made me really think about something I hadn’t thought about in a long time.  So often, I’m explaining something to him, and he’ll respond with, “Mommy what is . . . ?”, or “Why?”  These are very normal questions from a 2 year old, but they can be remarkably tricky for a 34 year old to answer.  I want to be honest and concise, while keeping the concepts simple and refraining from anything that’s going to worry or scare him — and I have to come up with the answer in about 15 seconds.  (And there will probably be follow up questions.)

We’ve been talking a lot about Easter lately around here — what we’re going to do for Easter, how we’re gonig to miss everyone at Easter, how everything here is closed for Easter, how decorated everything is here for Easter.  So, naturally, Benjamin hit me today with, “Mommy, what is Easter?”

I said the other day in my blog that Easter isn’t a religious holiday for my family.  That’s true on the surface, but not really (I think my mom was a bit surprised by my characterization of it, and I shudder to think what my grandmother would have said if she had ever heard me say that).  It isn’t really a religious holiday for us — not in a typical, traditional, “going to church” kind of religious way.  I don’t “go to church” anymore, but I grew up in the Catholic church, and there’s no denying that my thoughts and feelings about Easter have deeply religious roots, which are unquestionably retained.  Easter is definitely still a spiritual day for me, and more than that, I miss my formal religion at Easter.  I love the spirituality of it, the depth of it, the ceremony of it.  I think my own ideas of spirituality get mixed in with my Catholic roots and some vaguely pagan ideas about celebrating spring, along with a strong desire to be with my family.  I understand the significance of the day to my Catholic heritage, and I want to honor that.  I also enjoy the enthusiastic celebration of the wonder of fertility and rejuvenation that is signified by spring.  And I like the idea of the Easter Bunny for my boys.

So, where does that leave me?  Well, tomorrow, we’re going to go to St. Stephen’s Square (Stephansplatz).  We won’t even try to get into the church (I’m sure it will be overflowing with people for whom it is much more important that they get inside the church than it is to me).  But, I do want to be there — in the heart of Vienna, in what was the center of the Holy Roman Empire for a long time — there’s significance to that to me (and I think my grandmother would be pleased).  We’re going to spend a significant part of the day outside, enjoying spring.  We’re also going to Skype my mom and my sister (and my brothers, if they’re there) while they’re celebrating Easter together.  And the Easter Bunny is going to visit our little apartment before the boys wake up tomorrow.  I think that pretty much captures it for me.

But, what’s the “2 year old” version of that?  I’m not ready for crucifixion and resurrection with him.  I also don’t want to emphasize the Easter Bunny — because that isn’t really what it’s about.  So, I said, “Easter is a very special day where we spend time with our family and we celebrate the ability to be forgiven, and springtime, bunnies and babies.”  (Ok, I could do better, but not bad for 15 seconds thinking time.)  His response:  “Babies?  Like Liam?  Is the Easter Bunny going to come, too?  Will he bring presents, like Santa?”  I guess it’s hard not to overplay a magical bunny who brings presents and chocolate.  I’ll keep working on it.

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