On Easter’s Christian Messages: Giving Meaning Back to an Increasingly Secular Celebration
Easter has come and gone. Like Christmas, tradition has set aside one specific day dedicated to rejoicing our salvation’s assurance before we rapidly continue into new revelries and seasons of the church. However, it’s important that, as Christians, Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection lead us in year-round celebration and serve as motivation toward evangelism. Although Easter is a fixture in the lives of most Americans, the need for Christians to celebrate (and so share) the holiday’s meaning throughout the year grows more important with the rise of a secular Easter.
Easter’s primary identity as a Christian celebration of Jesus’s resurrection (whether or not one wishes to debate that other religions and ancient areas had their own spring celebrations which have been entwined with the Christian holiday), we understand. Diversity of religion and custom, however, has created many of the Easter symbols people so often today mislabel as “secular,” leading some to separate Easter from its true meaning. Most symbols and traditions, even those not originally rooted in Christianity (such as hunting eggs), have religious or spiritual significance. Originally a pagan symbol of Earth’s rebirth, hunting eggs was adopted by Christians to symbolize the rebirth of man, the eggs being like Jesus’s tomb. Our famous Easter Bunny (originally the Easter Hare) appeared later in the 17th century, originated by Germanic Lutherans as a judge of children’s behavior at the beginning of the Easter Season (the season of the Church lasting from Easter Sunday until Pentecost Sunday). The tradition of the Easter Bunny hiding eggs was written off for the first time by Georg Franck von Franckenau. A German botanist and physician, he mentioned it as tradition of the Alsace region of France.
The lambs so commonly depicted at Easter reference not only Christ (the Lamb of God), but also the Jewish celebration of Passover, during which is remembered God’s Angel of Death passing over the homes of Jewish people who had marked their doors with lambs’ blood (a story found in the book of Exodus just before the Israelites were led by Moses from Egypt). An Easter chick, having emerged from its shell, is another pagan symbol of rebirth that has been part of spring celebrations since ancient times, but is also a Christian symbol of resurrection. As a chick emerges from its shell, so too did Jesus emerge from the tomb! The life cycle of the butterfly represents Christ’s life, Easter lilies his purity. With symbols screaming to be recognized as anything but secular, why are so many who celebrate Easter doing so without knowing Jesus securing our salvation is the reason for the season?
We, as Christians, have had our sins wiped clean by the blood of our risen Lord! It is our joy and responsibility to spread the Easter message throughout the year. Through unceasing celebration, we may hope to highlight Easter symbols’ true significance and return the meaning to an increasingly secularized Church celebration.