How to End the Invisibility of Easter
Compared to Christmas, the Solemnity of the Resurrection is practically culturally out of sight.
Easter is the zenith of the Church year. It is the central truth of Christianity. Without it, as St. Paul observed (1 Corinthians 15:17), Christianity would be a pitiable fraud.
Easter may be the center of the liturgical year, but you would never guess it from U.S. culture. If the “war” over Christmas is “let Christmas be Christmas” (as opposed to “winter holiday,” “winter solstice” or one of those generic “holidays” about which we should be “happy”), then Easter is simply invisible.
It’s invisible in part because it always falls on a Sunday. You can observe Easter with practically none of your friends or organizations, certainly none of your co-workers, none the wiser.
Compared to Christmas, Easter’s practically culturally invisible. True, there’s the Easter egg roll, but it’s mostly for kids, which means that after a certain point (a point millennial couples are ever later reaching) their primary constituency is gone.
The Easter Bunny, a more enigmatic figure (a mammal who leaves eggs while wiggling his nose) never could compete with Santa Claus in popularity and, unlike the secularized St. Nicholas, has no connection to Christianity. (Some note that, like the eggs he brings, rabbits symbolize fertility and new life, but those concepts are also increasingly alien to our culture.)
The famous “Easter Parade” was never more than an urban spring fashion show after church. People today less and less go to church, much less don their “Sunday best” to attend.
There are no office “Easter parties,” no “Easter presents,” no “Easter cards.” Easter might be a special Sunday for Christians, but the larger society lets it pass like any other spring weekend.
Where the Catholic Church was numerous — the Northeast and Midwest — things were sometimes a little different.
In some of those states, Good Friday was a local holiday. About a dozen states still treat it as a holiday for state (not federal) workers, although few private employers honor it. Again, once upon a time, the celebration of the Liturgy of Good Friday often occurred at its traditional hour — 3pm — but has increasingly migrated into evening hours simply because the broader culture ignores it.
Don’t go along. Society may ignore them, but you shouldn’t. Your plans should reflect these three most sacred days, at the very least in your free time.
Growing up as a child in New Jersey in the 1960s and 1970s, I remember one cultural concession to the religious roots of Holy Week and Easter.
For a long time, the major networks would broadcast religious movies: Palm Sunday would feature DeMille’s The Ten Commandments while the afternoon/after school movie would run films like The Robe or King of Kings or The Greatest Story Ever Told. True, with on-demand watching you can probably find these classics, but there was something different about when most people had a shared viewing experience versus today’s version of “buffet viewing.”
Obviously, there’s no turning the clock back. But Easter is still the central day and the central tenet of our faith.
We ought to celebrate well, even if many around us let it pass like another spring weekend.
After all, the news of Easter ought to be something that we want to share with everyone: that death is not man’s end, that evil does not have the final word in history, that there is a God who loves us unto death by leading us through the valley of the shadow of death.
That’s why, in the ancient Church and today, Easter is the time par excellence for baptism, for people joining the Church (and coming home to it). So, what can we do?
We can make Easter a little less invisible. Here are some small ideas, with welcome for more.
Make sure to wish people a “Happy Easter.”
Wear a cross or crucifix around your neck or on your lapel.
Wear an image of Jesus the Divine Mercy on your lapel. (Easter is about God’s mercy par excellence — it’s no accident the Octave Day of Easter is Divine Mercy Sunday.)
Put some lilies on your desk or in your room. They are the symbol of Easter life, and if their visual beauty doesn’t catch the eye, their haunting fragrance will.
Send Easter cards. (Check your local store or Amazon — not all cards are secular.)
Invite some friends and neighbors over during Holy Week to watch some of the old classic films or The Passion of the Christ.
Want to give some acquaintances an Easter gift?
There are printable bookmarks proclaiming “He is Risen” online.
Do yourself and your family a favor by taking some time off to take part in the Paschal Triduum, or at least Good Friday/Easter Monday.
If you really can’t (and ask yourself “really?”), make sure those days are not just like another Friday, Saturday, and Sunday: What you do and with whom you do it should make clear these three days are special.
In many Catholic countries in Europe, Easter Monday is a holiday (the second day of Easter). If you can’t spare the day off, bring some Easter treat to the office or job as a way of sharing the holiday with co-workers or associates.
Tailor your social media to specifically refer to Easter and its meaning.
These gestures may simply generate a moment of recognition or appreciation, or they might prompt a conversation that lets you say something about why the Risen Christ is important to you — a way for you to make Easter less invisible.