Unleavened Brett

Brett’s Friday Blog Post

UP Mar 29

Are Americans still celebrating Easter?

This Sunday is Easter which used to be widely recognized as a spiritual holiday for celebrating the resurrection of Christ. But I wonder if Americans understand that anymore. It seems most still celebrate the holiday but don’t really know why. Like the other major Christian holiday of Christmas, with each generation, the memory of its meaning gets foggier. Amid Easter baskets, bunnies & dying eggs, I especially wonder if children anymore have a clue what any of it means.

Our culture stopped recognizing “Easter break” in schools. If this were years ago, children would be starting Easter break today on Good Friday so they could attend mid-day church services. But it instead became “Spring break” in the same way that “Christmas break” became “Winter break.” The State used to acknowledge the actual meaning because Christianity was a positive force in society to be celebrated. But that understanding has become a relic that today’s children are completely unfamiliar with.

Those old enough also remember that it was the time of year when boys would get a new suit, while girls would don new dresses, hats, lacy gloves & patent leather shoes. Why? To wear to church. Then afterward, the extended family would gather for a nice meal, either at home or at a slightly higher-class restaurant. But these days few will be celebrating with large numbers of family. I’m not saying we should return to that–I never did like dressing in a suit, especially wearing a neck-choking tie. And I prefer not to go out to restaurants on Sundays after church because I’ve always preferred that people not have to work on Sunday mornings so they can be free to attend church.

I’ve got nothing against egg hunts & candy-filled baskets. But over the years this has become more of a focus for families than celebrating the keystone of our faith. It seems even baskets have become filled more with gifts than chocolates, jelly beans & Peeps. In the same way that Christmas has become so commercialized with materialism, lots of money is now spent at Easter on toys, tech, & trinkets. Maybe it’s more affordable due to the savings of not buying dressy clothes for church? Similar to Christmas, I think as long as families can keep the focus on Jesus, that’s all fine. Every year at our church during Easter services, the children get to participate in an egg hunt. This year we’re even doing a candy drop from the church rooftop. But all those are supplemental to the message they’ll be receiving about Jesus, not substitutions for it.

Some would question if we should celebrate “Easter” at all as Christians. After all, doesn’t it have pagan origins? That’s a valid question, but once again similar to Christmas, whatever pagan origins may be involved, no one’s recognizing any of that. Those supposed pagan origins are mostly speculative anyway. What we do know is that we’re most definitely celebrating the risen Savior! And even if there were some quasi-pagan residual aspects, they’ve been co-opted & overwhelmed by the Christian meaning.

Of course, the culture has also seen church attendance decline steadily & dramatically over the past couple of decades. While Easter is still considered the biggest church attendance day of the year, that’s been shifting as well. Why? Because it seems that unchurched people are not showing up like they once did. A kind of cultural Christianity used to move people to show up to church. But that vestigial memory of religious significance has practically disappeared. Unchurched people don’t appreciate the Christian meaning of Easter, but many do still appreciate the nostalgic warmth of candlelight & carols at Christmas church services. At our church, Easter has pretty much always seen the largest attendance of the year. But that changed last year–Christmas Eve services were slightly larger than Easter services. Could it be that Christmas is now more conducive to inviting the unchurched, while Easter remains an attraction mostly to the “de-churched” who no longer attend regularly?

Regardless, let’s do all we can to invite people to come with us for Easter services. They’re still more open to an invitation at this time of year than most any other time. There still may be a tug to connect with God during this special season. It’s not too late to pray & give someone a call, send them a text, message them, hand them an invitation card, or share a social post. In fact, people often wait till the last day to decide about attending a church. It may never cross their minds to just drop in on their own. But they’d be open to someone they know welcoming them. They’re just waiting for someone to care enough to make the big ask. You’ll never know till you try. Never forget—one invite can change a life forever!