As we drove in from JFK on Saturday, having just landed after a 13 hour flight from Abu Dhabi, Caleb said “now we can do that painting eggs thing for the Easter Bunny?”

The Easter Bunny thought fast. “Well, I’m not sure we have eggs at home to boil and then paint. The Easter Bunny might not come this year because we don’t have any eggs for it to hide and it knows we were away. So we’ll celebrate spring another way.”

Caleb wasn’t having it. “NOT COMING? He always comes! And with chocolate bunnies and maybe little presents in the Easter baskets, like cars or something.”

The Easter Bunny closed her eyes and wished she were still sitting in business class with the nice flight attendants plying her with champagne.  Then the classic punt: “we’ll see.”

And that’s why, after the boys were asleep, the Easter Bunny found herself roaming the pillaged aisles of Duane Reade, Walgreens, and Food Emporium, in search of something–anything–that would count as Easter Bunny offerings.  Here’s what was left in a walking-distance radius at 9pm on the Saturday before Easter:

12 plastic eggs with schlocky “toys” inside, which I supplemented with jellybeans; 4 Reese’s Pieces plastic eggs; 2 big Lindt bunnies; and 2 nerf footballs. Pathetic, I know, but the Easter Bunny had jet-lag.  These triumphs of plastic commercialism were hidden around the apartment and lo, in the morning, there was much joy and jellybean eating.

That’s the meaning of Easter, as near as my kids know.  I talked a little bit about Easter as a time of “new beginnings,” which is why we use the eggs, and about spring and re-birth.  Note that avoidance of any actual religion here.  The closest Caleb knows to anything is the story of the First Matzoh but as far as he’s concerned, that’s a story about bad guys chasing good guys and I think he’s pretty sure that Moses looks like Frodo (aka Elijah Wood), in Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” movies.

Religion, in our household, doesn’t have much of a foothold. I heard Liam a while back talking to a friend of his about what J. was learning in Catholic school (J. will be confirmed next year). J. said “well, there are prayers you have to know, and you go to Mass, and stuff…”  Liam thought a minute and then, “what’s praying for? And what’s a Mass?”

Walking through Abu Dhabi the other night after dinner, we walked by a mosque, its green light shining from the minaret. “I know what that is!” Caleb exclaimed. “It’s one of those special places and all the different people who believe stuff go to different ones, right? What do people believe who go to a mosque?”

Every year at Easter and Christmas I tell myself that this year I will spend some time with the boys explaining the various stories and every year I do a little bit and then give up.  I don’t think I believe in god, or God, or anything, particularly, but often that makes me feel like I’m missing something–a larger community, if nothing else, and a way to encourage the boys to think about the world beyond their own needs and desires. We’re moving to a place where religion is unavoidable–that five-times daily call to prayer is a sure-fire reminder of the world of faith–so maybe now the time is right for us to embark on a little “introduction to world religions” course.  It’s not that I want the boys to believe in god, necessarily, but I think they need more information than we’ve given them thus far, if only to make sense of where we’re going to be living next year.

I grew up going to an Episcopalian Church. I remember three things: I was a horse in the Noah’s Art pageant; my mother taught Sunday school (reluctantly, she later told me; it was something she did because “she thought she should.); and the minister’s wife had a mustache and thick man-hair on her arms.

Husband grew up as a Zorastrian–seriously.  Zarathustra and the whole deal.  Zorastrians–Parsis–were driven out of Persia and settled mostly in India and what is now Pakistan; the religion sees the world in terms of the fight between good and evil.  Husband had a “nav jut” when he was puberty-ish (about the same time a Jewish kid might have a bar mitzvah); he had to recite some lines in an ancient language, memorize some prayers, and a few other things.  For a while he wore a special undergarment, like an undershirt, that had religious significance, but he gave that up when it started to be a pain in the ass to change for gym…and he’s never looked back.  You could say he’s a “lapsed Zorastrian.” Husband’s mom was a Protestant, so there was a bit of a flap on his father’s side of the family when they married, but the upshot is that Husband grew up with Christmas but not much else by way of religious celebrations.  I know there are some Zoroastrian holidays on the calendar but Husband doesn’t remember what they are, when they are, or how they are to be celebrated.

In short, we got ourselves some heathen kids and our holidays are primarily chocolate-based. I want the boys to know about faith and what people other than themselves believe, but I think it’s time for me to make my peace with the fact that this family isn’t ever going to be a faith-based operation, at least not on my watch.  I’m hoping that if we can institute family traditions (whether built around chocolate or some other eating venture), we will be building a sense of community and continuity.  Mom-101 wrote about this the other day, about making her own Seder for her kids and that she can make the traditions how she likes and not be beholden to the “shoulds” and “always haves.” If she can do it, so can I, right?

So. Happy Easter and Passover and alhamdulillah and whatever else there is: happy spring and happy chocolate bunnies to you all.