I am continually struck by the intermingling of cultural and secular ideas with Christian holidays.
Spring is my favorite season. I was born in early April, so as a child my fondness for spring paralleled the anticipation of turning another year older. But now that I’m no longer a child, I still like spring. As someone who grew up in the Midwest, I love to hear the first robin chirp during an early morning jog. I love to see the early crocus, daffodils, and other blossoms poke their heads through the ground. I love to see the grass slowly transform from dead dull browns and grays into vivid greens. I like to trade my heavy warm coats and mittens and scarves for lighter fleece jackets, or, daringly, no coat at all. I love that I can move from inside to outside without a 40 degree temperature change. Much of the cultural trappings of Easter have more to do with a celebration of the season of spring and an emphasis on new life, love, and growth. Not necessarily Christian, but not necessarily secular either.
I enjoy some of the cultural trappings of Easter. In addition to a once yearly Cadbury Cream Egg, a few Peeps, jelly beans, and Cadbury mini eggs, I have discovered Nerd jelly beans. Yes. Jellybeans coated in crunchy Nerds. What says spring and Easter better than weird made up foods that defy the whole foods and farm-to-table movements?
I’m less fond of the Easter Bunny. A giant bunny gives candy-filled eggs to children? Sounds suspiciously like Santa Claus of that other important religious holiday, but equally problematic to explain to children (as the folks behind “Easter According to Kids” can attest, this Easter Bunny appears near a 1st century tomb?) Bunnies don’t have opposable thumbs (or bow ties), so why are parents complicit in giving this random giant bunny credit for their hard work? No thanks. I’ll keep the candy, carrot cake, and the celebration of spring, but no Easter bunny for me.
I love the true celebration of Easter because it is counterintuitive, this rising from the dead. Yet that resurrection is the very foundation of our faith. I love Easter because it is unexpected, at least for Jesus’ disciples and followers. In Luke 24:1-12, the writer tells us that the women found the tomb empty and were “perplexed.” Then two men in “dazzling clothes” asked them “why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” The two men then remind the women of what Jesus had told them about his death and resurrection. Luke writes, “then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest.” I love that the women had apparently heard Jesus talking about these things at some point, but it didn’t register, or they didn’t believe it, or maybe they just didn’t understand Jesus when he discussed his death and resurrection. I love that Jesus literally appears to his followers and they are still confused about what is going on. Apparently those of us who live in the 21st century are not alone in being confused when confronted with Christ and his resurrection.
I also love that Easter provides an opportunity for courage. Christ has conquered death.
Where, O death, is thy victory? Where, O death, is thy sting?
I love Easter candy, spring, and the reminder of new life.
But new life in Christ gives me infinitely more hope, more joy, and more courage to face tomorrow.