Reforming the Easter Celebration

Although Easter is the pinnacle of the Church Year, it has never quite seemed that way to me and I think that the way it is celebrated is part of the reason why. Growing up, Christmas certainly outshone Easter as a time of excitement and wonder. Presents of course had much to do with that, as well as the impressions associated with a typical Easter. I think John Updike captures some of it in his story, Short Easter:

But, generally, the festivity that should attend the day had fallen rather flat: quarrelsome and embarrassed family church attendances, with nobody quite comfortable in pristine Easter clothes; melancholy egg hunts in some muddy back yard, the smallest child confused and victimized; headachy brunches where the champagne punch tasted sour and conversation lagged.

I associate Easter with uncomfortable clothes, the colors purple, pink, mauve and yellow, the house being too warm due to ham cooking, having to sit down to an excessively formal dinner of ham, and getting the feeling of quasi-nausea that comes from eating far too much sugar in one day. Sugary mints, sugary Peeps, sugary everything. The weather is too hot for your new suit and pollen is everywhere. The preacher trying too hard to make the old story new. Things of that nature are what come to mind.

In contrast, it seems like Easter should be a military celebration, a Roman Triumph, a victory parade. Torches burning, bands blaring, pigs roasting on a spit. The God-Man has destroyed our last enemy, death, and has utterly triumphed over every foe. I don’t know quite what is should look like, but I do like what Rober Louis Wilken wrote in First Things:

If Christ is culture, let the sidewalks be lit with fire on Easter Eve, let traffic stop for a column of Christians waving palm branches on a spring morning, let streets be blocked off as the faithful gather for a Corpus Christi procession. Then will others know that there is another city in their midst, another commonwealth, one that has its face, like the face of angels, turned toward the face of God.

As one small token towards this end, I have started grilling steak on Easter rather than cooking a ham. I am open to ribs and other meats as well. I wish I could conceive of an outright feast, a party of some sort, and maybe I will get there someday, but for now, this small rebellion against Easter orthodoxy is all I can manage. If we could re-enchant Easter, we might be able to truly surpass the Christmas spirit in the Spring with a grand holiday feast.

4 thoughts on “Reforming the Easter Celebration”

  1. At our daughter’s church, they are starting a new tradition of all going out to eat dressed in white, so as to draw attention to the fact that Easter is monumental. They do it on Good Friday, which seems to run counter to the church calendar as a day to celebrate, but in the Pearl District in Portland, no one bats an eye to this detail.

    I have wonderfully happy memories of Easter as a child. My father always bought us beautiful corsages, which was not done for any other holiday. We also got large colorful Easter baskets. My mom always made us new dresses; sometimes we got a hat or purse as well. It was great happiness without the overdone stress and excess of Christmas.

    Church included great hymns of the faith by Wesley, even though Louise Steele in the choir always, and I do mean always, shrieked out the soprano line in the choir loft, while Ken Buckner sang the most horrible interpretation of the tenor line imaginable. My father always commented on their lack of ability, and congratulated us for having survived it,yet another year. He refused to sing in church, but always wrapped his arm around me in the back of the pew, tapping or tickling me when the sermon was dull, in other words, pretty much every week.

    Here is the funny thing: at the time neither of us were Christians. We enjoyed the holiday to the full, having no true recognition of the significance of it. Now as a Christian, I admit that I have never given Easter it’s due, taking for granted that since I ‘know’ it’s significance, that it requires no outer signage for others to see.

    I may have to follow your lead and remedy this.

  2. Brother, too bad we don’t live a little closer. I would heartily join you in reforming this celebration that should be the center of our church year.

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