I’m up this morning as usual, perhaps a bit later because no one is scheduled to work today. As I’m making tea and cleaning up the kitchen, Jen comes up in a pretty sun dress looking for a shawl to go with it. My meager wardrobe doesn’t have anything quite right, so she goes back down to change. She in a hurry because she has to go to church.
Church? I think, momentarily puzzled. Jen doesn’t go to church. Oh, that’s right. It’s Easter.
Alec had scheduled a stream for this afternoon. His usual online friends and fans said sure, Sunday is a good day. Then, whoops! Sorry, can’t do it this Sunday. Because, well, Easter.
It’s one of those holidays that catch us off-guard, like St. Patrick’s Day or Passover. Days which are very important to other people, but have no significance to us. It’s not like Christmas, which is so overwhelmingly universal that there’s no avoiding it, whether you celebrate or not. I recall doing things with Easter eggs and baskets when the boys were little. They’ve grown up now. So we mark the season with Cadbury eggs, and that’s about it.
We live in a diverse society. Different folks have different beliefs. Different things are important to them. There are celebrations centered around sports events, religious festivals, national memorials. There are birthdays, Mother’s, Father’s, and even Grandparents’ Day. Weeks or months dedicated to Women’s Studies, Black History, Cancer Awareness, Dairy Products, and goodness knows what else. All designed to focus our attention on something important, to get us to put it on the front burner for a while and think about it. We are free to ignore it if we wish.
It harms me not a whit if my neighbors are celebrating Easter, Passover, the Spring Goddess, or National Pickle Day.
When I hop onto Facebook for a quick peek, just to see what other people are talking about, I sometimes see righteous posts: “Everybody presumes I celebrate Easter. Kindly remember, not all of us celebrate the same holidays.” Or “I don’t give a damn about sportsball. What’s with all these people going crazy over some stupid game?” Got to admit, I’m guilty myself. I’ve played the misguided diversity card, trying to shame other people because in their enthusiasm to celebrate, they presume I’m celebrating, too. I’ve been that obnoxious person who, being wished a happy Easter, makes a point of saying, “Thanks, but I don’t celebrate.” This accomplishes nothing aside from making the other person uncomfortable. And let’s face it, the dominant religion in this country is Christianity in its myriad forms. It isn’t unreasonable to presume your neighbor or the clerk in the store is doing something for Easter. In Israel, the set of reasonable presumptions would be different.
The big one is, of course, the aforementioned National Festive Orgy known as Christmas. I’m not sure how it became the mutated monster holiday that is is now. Various reasons, I suppose, the largest of which might be capitalism. It’s a very profitable holiday. And all the excessive spending can be cloaked in an assortment of sentimental and religious excuses. We are shamed into pouring money that many of us can’t really spare into the pockets of merchants.
And we add to the stress of this holiday by doing the annual Not Everyone Celebrates thing. Good lord, why do we do this? Piling resentment and injury and righteous grandstanding onto people who are already overwhelmed and trying just to cope? Turning it into a Happy Holidays/Merry Christmas war that takes the Happy and Merry completely out of it. Like we really need another wedge driving us apart.
For years I added to the stress, seething every year with resentment for being forced to celebrate a holiday which I find appalling. I met every defiant “Merry Christmas!” with an equally aggressive “Happy Holidays!” I sent atheist Christmas cards, ranted about how Christ wasn’t even born in December and the Church just appropriated the date from Pagans in an attempt to force their religion on them. Oh, I ran the whole route.
Now, reflecting on Easter, I am struck by the senselessness of it. Easter is another Pagan holiday taken over by Christians because their narrative of the Risen Christ fit neatly into the wakening of the winter-dead world into spring. So what? They have their narrative, I have mine. Both bring us joy and hope. Why fight about who’s “right”?
And now that I think about it, this relates to what I wrote about the Pledge of Allegiance. I stand respectfully while those who believe in it recite it. I don’t get in their faces. I don’t make a speech regarding our kinship to people of other nations and how dangerous nationalism is. I let them do their thing in peace while I peacefully abstain.
I’m going to try to remember this in December. I’m declaring a truce in the War of Christmas. The rest of the world can deal with the holiday however they choose. They can greet me in the marketplace however they choose. If they insist on giving me presents, I’ll accept them graciously, but will not feel obliged to buy gifts in return. Since what they call “the spirit of Christmas” is what I strive for the whole year through, I needn’t feel pressured to act any differently in December. I will go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
Everyone yearns for happiness and joy, and tries to avoid suffering. May our actions promote the former, and may we not add to the latter.