Do we have Easter for the Easter egg hunts? Is it for all the chocolate bunnies or yellow and pink marshmallow peeps? Is it just a good excuse for a long weekend away from work and school? Why do we have Easter as a holiday? The question is not why we celebrate Easter, for that could lead to any number of answers. Fundamentally, though, why does Easter exist as a holiday? What happened to make this candied (somehow most of two family size bags of Robin Eggs have vanished in my house – I’m blaming the attic gremlins), bunny hopping, egg hunting, and early rising day possible?
Easter offers us a modern case study in pretense. Pretense because while you can hear almost anyone these days say that we care about those who are poor, who are outcasts, who are different, the neediest among us, that we honor those who serve others, who are honest and show integrity, and who give their lives for even those who despise them, our actions and to a lesser extent the results of those actions prove otherwise. The results of our actions are to a lesser extent because each person still retains the ability to act of their own accord regardless of how others treat them. Yet we must hold a lion’s share of the responsibility for it is we who honor those who lie, cheat and steal. We honor the richest and most famous among us by giving our time and attention and money to their efforts. We honor those who dishonor people who have given their lives in service of others, and we ourselves degrade those who choose to serve. In essence we treat other people exactly the opposite of the way we would like them to treat us were the roles reversed. Yet this holiday revolves around a man who cared for the widow and the orphan and who treated his fellow man better than any has done before or since.
So no, the reason we have Easter to celebrate is not chocolate, bunny rabbits, egg hunts, or even presents. The reason we have Easter is due to a materialistically poor man, an outcast, who spoke and stayed with both the rich and the poor, who confounded and angered those in political power, who rode on donkeys, who gave his life for even those who hated him, and who could have forced every other person in the world to serve him. This man was soft spoken, often but not always. He was a teacher and a healer, both in the medical and spiritual sense. He served literally every single person he came into contact with, and even those he did not. His actions lined up with his words, and his words were in keeping with his character, a very rare combination of traits.
At some point a couple thousand years ago, this man, for man he was, was arrested. He was questioned. He was interrogated. He was mocked and flogged, that’s a fancy word for beaten really badly. And in the end he was nailed to a piece of wood much the same way I am nailing shiplap up to the walls of the house we are building. This man’s death though horrific brought with it hope for anyone who would accept the hand he stretched out to them. His death was the end of somethings but the beginning of many things, and it alone is the reason that we have Easter to celebrate.
A necessary follow on question may be does it matter if we celebrate Easter for the correct reasons? Should it matter why we celebrate a holiday as long as it is celebrated? Have we gotten to the point where the holiday itself, any holiday for that matter, is more about the benefits enjoyed during the holiday than about the benefits enjoyed because of the holiday? Should it matter whether a man dressed up in a cotton, colored bunny suit carrying a basket of plastic eggs with chocolate inside to give to children on his lap is celebrated over a man in worn clothing, riding a donkey, and offering healing and redemption from hurts of the soul and body?
In the end, yes it does matter why we celebrate a holiday. For if we celebrate a holiday for the wrong reasons we miss both the point of the holiday, the opportunity to teach our children, and the ability to truly appreciate the holiday as anything more than any other weekend day. And although the question of why we celebrate Easter may have many answers, the fundamental question of why we have Easter to celebrate has only one answer. It is a man covered in dust, who walked, and laughed, and cried his way through life. A man who still to this day stretches out his hand to anyone who will take it. — JT Cope IV