Easter has never been celebrated for me in this way. I can't say Easter stands out in my mind as a major holiday event as we weren't often gathered with a big group of family - as is often the priority on Thanksgiving and Christmas. As a kid, I remember convincing my mother to get a new "Easter dress", usually flowery with a big bow. But beyond that the annual singing of "Morning has Broken" at my Quaker meeting because it was written by a member, not tons stands out. We have memorial lilies to remember loved ones and palms on palm Sunday, sometimes.
While the U.S. is often seen to the outside world as quite Christian - our loud conservative "Christian Right", "God Bless America" at the end of political speeches, and "In God we Trust" on all our money - living in Europe makes me realize how few federal holidays we have associated with religious traditions. I could have said, "how few federal holidays." Full stop. Period. Here in Sweden most places are closed on Good Friday, Easter and Easter Monday and have reduced hours on the Thursday before Good Friday and Saturday before Easter. Kids are out of school during Easter week.
An Australian friend was reflecting about how special it is to have the beginning of spring coincide with Easter here in Sweden. Because the seasons are opposite in the southern hemisphere, Easter is usually in a fall time. All the eggs symbolizing new life, the blooming flowers after a cold winter make it feel differently significant. In Australia Easter time also has holidays associated and numerous days off (Good Friday, Easter Saturday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday). And sometimes you get a lucky 5-day weekend when it coincides with another public holiday on April 25th, Anzac Day - honoring members of the Australian and New Zealand Armed Corps who have died.
In Europe (and Australia) where fewer and fewer people are religious, there are sure a lot of holidays associated with religious tradition. But part of the key for Americans is that our Puritan roots as a country made it so that the early settlers could be fined for celebrating Christmas . And Christmas wasn't a federal holiday until 1870 and it's the only Christian-related (or religious) federal holiday we have.
|Påsk (Easter) decorations - colored feathers in trees.|
Traditionally religious holiday times are for fasting or a pilgrimage or a feast, sound familiar, Jews, Christians and Muslims? It should, because at least traditionally we all do it. (Well, Christians cheat - fasting means you still get veggies.)
Seeing all the facebook photos of candies, dresses, presents, this Easter time, makes me understand a bit what the Puritans were so angry about. They didn't like the boozing and merriment, I don't like how commercial all these holidays are. Grumble on.
In the end, the wonderful part of holidays is the gathering with family and friends. I will tolerate the obsessive facebook posting, put away my concerns about the dominating nature of Christian traditions in diverse societies, and just try to enjoy the time off.
U.S., get it together. We should have more public holidays - no matter the origin, because it really is about giving people time to connect and be with loved ones, not going to work all the time.
|"Peace" from Easter brunch crowd (members of the Dep't of Peace and Conflict Research). Photo by: David Ermes.|