I always thought Christianity did a poor job of selling its holiest day. Easter often seems like a distant second to Christmas. Christmas coincides on the Calendar (thanks to shrewd early church leaders) with the rest of the holiday season. Hard on the heels of Thanksgiving and with New Year's just around the corner, it's much more celebratory. The themes of birth, new beginnings, and celebration coincide much more naturally with a party. There are gifts for everyone, even that strange cousin you only see on Christmas. Christmas dinner recapitulates Thanksgiving with dressing, turkey, ham, sweet potatoes and more. Most if not all places are closed in observance of the holiday with a few days either way, providing a welcome break from work or school.
By many metrics, Easter compares poorly. Easter eggs and baskets filled with candy can never quite compete with wrapped presents under a tree. Easter is stranded weeks away from any other holidays, and if you grew up Catholic and in Louisiana as I did until my family moved to Texas, you'd be forgiven for believing that the real holiday comes six weeks before on Mardi Gras. The themes are more abstract and much more morbid in a literal sense. Death, crucifixion and resurrection do not have the happy natural associations of birth and new life. Many businesses and schools don't take off at all for Good Friday and Easter itself suffers from already being on a Sunday.
Yet there's really no comparison between the two. Christmas is a feast day wedged into the holiday calendar, December 25th chosen because it coincides with the old Roman/Mithraic holiday of Natalis Invicti and Christians needed a rival feast day to compete (for those of you keeping score, Mithras lost badly). Easter's day shifts because of its relationship with Passover, the last holy day celebrated by Jesus himself and the indirect origin of the Eucharist. Jesus' birth is a promise that has no context without the resurrection. The competition between Easter and Christmas for holiest day really isn't much of a competition at all. It's Easter by a mile.
Before James died, I thought very little about mortality. Although I was not much younger, I felt much younger. Life felt like it was just beginning. It doesn't feel that way anymore. What that means for religion is probably a separate post, but I find myself thinking more about Easter and what it means this year than I did before. Certainly more than Christmas. That's probably a good thing.
I hope all of you have a Happy Easter with your families. As always, thank you for your continued thoughts and prayers.