In the year or so since my son was born, our lives have been regularly punctuated by the arrival of envelopes and packages with milestone-celebrating gifts: cards for everything from his first Thanksgiving, to his first Valentines Day, onesies proudly proclaiming his first Christmas and his first Hanukkah. So I was surprised that none of the Easter cards we’ve gotten recently made any mention of it being his first. And then it hit me: it isn’t.
It may sound strange to have completely forgotten a major holiday, but in my defense, last year it fell very shortly after my son was born. We didn’t have any family or friends nearby who celebrated, so it passed in a sleep-deprived blur.
I realize we’ve come full circle. None of these holidays will ever be my son’s first again.
I find myself juggling slight melancholy with a sort of proud disbelief. We’ve celebrated all the French holidays and all of the shared ones, and I’ve managed to make things festive even on the ones that don’t exist here. On Halloween, for example, I dressed my son in a (shoddy) homemade black cat costume. That night, my husband carved a jack o’lantern whose grin revealed two bottom teeth, just like my son’s smile. For Thanksgiving, I made a turkey from a tracing of his hand.
I realize he won’t remember these private celebrations, but he had fun, and, if nothing else, I saw them as a test drive for the years to come. Plus, they’ve given us some great photos and souvenirs.
Like this, for example.
As Easter approached, though, I realized that not only was it not my son’s first Easter; it was also a holiday I wasn’t going to be able to completely adapt to our Franco-American foyer. The French have many similar Easter customs to us Americans: there’s chocolate and other candies, kids might get a very small present, there are egg hunts, and spring-like decorations in shops…but one crucial thing is missing. There’s no Easter Bunny.
Instead, French children receive candy from a bell that flies in from a Roman church. And regardless of the holiday’s mascot, there’s no iconic Easter photo kids take every year. I mean, I guess someone could set up a shot with a big bell, but since you can’t really have a dialogue with it and tell it what you want for Easter or pet it or anything, that’s kind of pointless.
Plus, the French aren’t really into holiday photo shoots. Although more and more shopping centers and Christmas markets are setting up Santa Claus photo ops (most likely due to the influence of American culture), these pictures don’t have the iconic, expected role they do in the US.
Each year, we get cards from American friends and family with their young offspring dressed to the nines and hanging out with Santa or standing in front of a Christmas tree or beside a menorah. My husband views them as a strange novelty. But he was just as excited as I was last December, when we came upon Santa in a sleigh at the Bordeaux Christmas market, a professional photographer aiming his lens over a (fake) reindeer’s antlers. We bought two different pictures of my son and the Bordeaux Santa, and chose one to have printed as postcards.
But there will be no Easter Bunny photo. As the holiday got closer, I found myself getting strangely sad about it. Maybe it was because I’d been looking at so many of those awkward or scary Easter bunny photo compilations you find on so many websites. Maybe it’s because, among the few childhood photos I currently have in my possession, two of them are of me with the Easter Bunny (and both could very well find their places on one of those terrified-kids-with-the-Easter-Bunny articles).
Or maybe it’s because, try as I might, there’s no way to really bring the Easter Bunny to my son.
At least not for now. Maybe when he understands the concept, we can do something like leave a half-eaten carrot near his Easter basket or something. But right now, there’s no bunny for him to immediately react to, touch, laugh at, be delighted by, etc. (no, I’m not going to write “be terrified by,” because ideally that wouldn’t happen…although, if it did, at least it would make for a funny photo that he would cherish when he was in his thirties).
I did ponder a few strategies. I checked to see if any expat organizations were doing Easter Bunny photo shoots. Nope. I thought of renting an Easter Bunny costume — but having a parent mysteriously replaced by a huge bunny is probably a bit traumatic. I toyed with the idea of Photoshopping my son into one of my old Easter Bunny pictures.
If only I knew how to use Photoshop….
I considered putting bunny ears of some kind on our cat, but that would only have ended in bloodshed.
Finally, I thought, why not make paper bunny ears for the whole family (maybe even the cat)? But my son was not having it. The minute I put the paper band around his head, he took it off. No matter how often I tried or how distracted he was, he still reached up and removed the ears.
And so, our Easter passed: fun, but Bunny-less. That makes two Easters without an Easter Bunny photo. And while I know it really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things — like when it comes to what Easter is really about — some part of me feels like we’ve missed out on something delightful and memorable, something important in its way.
Then again, maybe I should just take my son’s lead and let it go.
And anyway, at least there’s Easter chocolate.