Easter is coming up this Sunday. I have a bit of a confession to make. I really enjoy Easter. I grew up going to a Presbyterian Church. Holy Week from Palm Sunday through Easter was one of my favorite times of the year at church. You had great story telling, pageantry, egg dying, crafts made from palm fronds, and of course, a big meal with tasty ham and baskets full of chocolate. My family had all kinds of traditions for our Easter Celebration, one of the weirder ones being a Lamb made from Rice Krispey Treats and decorated with jellybeans and coconut shavings.
But wait, I am an Atheist.
I don’t believe in Jesus as the son of god or divine in any way. I don’t believe the Easter story as anything more than a myth. Though it actually does annoy me that like many religious holidays, Easter has been turned into just another reason to buy cheap crap and eat way too much candy.
That said… If all these religious holidays are taking on clearly secular influences that have little to do with the origins of the holiday, does that give us non-religious folks an “in” to celebrate with the rest of them?
Yes and no… It’s complicated.
I think to appropriate the holiday and claim it as just a celebration of Spring and completely ignore it’s religious roots is disrespectful to the people who do believe but at the same time the bunnies and pastel eggs have nothing to do with the supposed resurrection of Jesus – blerg.
I am about to become an aunt. Technically I am already an aunt, but my younger sister is about to have her first child and this will be the first baby where I will be an adult while they are growing up. I will be involved in explaining these family traditions and holidays to her kids. This has gotten me thinking about the differences between celebrating your cultural and familial traditions vs. religious traditions. I think about it as a spectrum. On one end you have the deeply religious and spiritual elements of the holiday, and the other end you have the completely secular and honestly, commercialized aspects of the holiday.
Somewhere in the middle of that spectrum lies the cultural elements. The celebration of Spring and rebirth is something that secular and non-Christians can celebrate. You can even tell the Easter story if you wanted, as long as it is in the same context you would explain other supernatural mythology.
I think it is important to explain in broad strokes the stories behind these religious holidays, even if you do not celebrate the spiritual elements in your own family. Understanding of other people’s religious traditions and stories will help your children be more open-minded, open-hearted, and understanding of the experiences of others.
Making new traditions.
So this Sunday, my husband and I will have Easter Brunch with my very pregnant sister and her husband. We will eat our weird Rice Krispey Treat Lamb and entirely too many Cadbury Mini Eggs. We might even dye some Easter Eggs. And in the future, I am certain there will be egg hunts and colorful baskets full of chocolate bunnies for the kids. But Aunt Erica will also be there to teach them that while we should respect the Christians who celebrate we should also think critically and understand that the Easter story is just a story.
We celebrate because it is our family’s tradition. We celebrate because it is fun and an excuse to eat ham glazed with tasty pineapples. As my sister and I have grown into adults(!?) we have learned that its totally OK to pick and choose what traditions you want to continue with your own family, and how to adapt them to your own philosophical beliefs.
So, to all my secular friends out there… Happy Bunny/Egg/Spring Sunday! Let’s raise our mimosa’s to Zombie Bunny Jesus and enjoy the fact that we got to sleep in!
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Erica Greenwold Reisen is the founder of Secularly Wed and is a Wedding Planner based in Chapel Hill, NC. Her Wedding Planning business can be found at www.folieadeuxevents.com