Can Catholics Celebrate Santa and the Easter Bunny?

Q: It is part of our culture to make Christmas about Santa instead of Christ’s birth and Easter about the Easter Bunny instead of Christ’s resurrection. Is it frowned upon to celebrate these other figures as well as Jesus?

In the month of December you can hardly enter any place of business without encountering a bell ringer in a Santa suit; in the spring, images of pastel-colored rabbits multiply like, well, rabbits. So the key to answering your question is what you really mean by “celebrating” these other figures. Santa Claus is derived from a Christian saint, the fourth century Nicholas of Myra; the Easter Bunny stems from ancient pagan use of the rabbit as a sign of fertility. Modern marketing wizardry has carried them a long way from these beginnings. But you can either dismiss these figures as mere shells for consumerism, or recall the generosity and abundant life that they originally symbolized. All holidays, sacred and secular, have cultural trappings; it takes some discernment to decide what to emphasize while keeping focused on the real meaning of the occasion. So go ahead and don your red and white hat or munch those chocolate bunny ears — recognizing these figures as colorful cultural trappings is fine. Letting them eclipse the real meaning of the incarnation and the resurrection is not.

Neela Kale

Neela Kale is a writer and catechetical minister based in the Archdiocese of Portland. She served with the Incarnate Word Missionaries in Mexico and earned a Master of Divinity at the Jesuit School of Theology. Some of her best theological reflection happens on two wheels as she rides her bike around the hills of western Oregon.