"Dad, what has the Easter Bunny got to do with Jesus?" It was one of those tricky questions that your kids ask, the answer to which depends on your mood.
I've spent ages trying to repair the damage done by my wife who, in a moment of weakness, succumbed to some forensic interrogation and admitted to our daughter that Father Christmas was not real. I think I've managed to patch together a thin tissue of white lies that has sown enough doubt back into her mind. It'll only last for another two years or so, but I think that we have to cling to these things for as long as possible. That is why she will never speak to a boy until she is 36.
Now, I don't need to tell you learned readers that the practice of bringing Easter eggs is thought to have come from the Rhineland in the 1600s, as Katy Guest explains on Page 56. The depiction of a rabbit was believed to be linked to spring and fertility, but even the Germans thought it better not to introduce a randy rabbit into their children's lives – so the more asexual Easter Bunny was born.
I could have explained all this to my kids as we drove back from lunch with their grandfather, but I was tired and my mind was wandering – so I gave them an alternative explanation.
"When Jesus was a simple carpenter, long before he realised that he was the Son of God, he had a fabulous little business going. Day after day he would beaver away in his carpentry shop where he would make hundreds of little wooden rabbits that he would then sell to passing tourists. If the truth be known, Jesus became a little obsessed with rabbits. So much so that whenever a birthday came up (obviously there was no Christmas yet) all his friends and family would get him rabbit-shaped gifts.
"Pretty soon you couldn't move in his little home in Nazareth without stumbling into piles of all things rabbit. In town, people used to talk about the rabbit man of Nazareth. Some people were quite cruel and would tease him about his fascination with the world of the Lagomorpha. This was because in Jewish tradition, the rabbit (shfanim) was often associated with cowardice in the same way that we use the word "chicken".
"Jesus became annoyed at the townfolk for their unkindness to him and resented their implication that rabbits were in some way cowardly. So he started to carve a new type of rabbit – more powerfully built and sporting military clothing. He called these warrior rabbits and they became very popular with tourists. Soon, he found himself making more and more of them. When the revelation came to Jesus that he was the Son of God, he stopped making wooden warrior rabbits and set off on his travels – now well documented in the Bible.
"The people who had known him from this period, however, remembered him as the man who used to make wooden warrior rabbits. When he rose from the dead, many said that he had returned to make more..."
I felt something kick me hard in the back through my seat. It was my daughter. She was not impressed with my story-telling abilities.
"That's rubbish, Dad," she said, scornfully. I admitted that this might not have been absolutely exactly what happened and that it had all been a very long time ago and nobody could be certain. "I think that it was probably some chocolate company," she went on. "Somebody told me that Coca-Cola invented Father Christmas. I bet Cadbury's or someone like that came up with Easter Bunny."
I tried to look incredulous at her suspicious little mind, but deep down I have to admit that I was very proud.