“Why Celebrate My Holiday?” the Christian asked the Atheist

I’m temporarily stranded at a train station on my way to see family for Easter (obviously, that won’t be true when I upload this) and I have complete writers block on the book I’m trying to write. So I thought I’d follow through on my promise at the end of my last post and explain why I celebrate Easter. I don’t want this to be a repeat of when I explained, in part, why I celebrate Christmas (although the reasoning is much the same) so I’m going to go down the pathway I chose not to go down when I wrote that post.

Imagine you are the Head Teacher of a UK school (although, this also works for US and European schools). A parent has requested that the Asian students don’t get the bug Summer Holiday off. The parent reasons to you that the summer holiday, and its obscene length, is a cultural tradition. It stems from the old harvest and getting children to help out on the fields during the busiest time of the agricultural year. Asian countries don’t have pronounced seasons like this, and they are not a part of this long-standing British holiday.

As a Head Teacher you take this very seriously and you bring it up at the school assembly and send a letter home. You request that students and parents alike to comment on this before you decide. All the letters, when you ignore the accusations that you are a racist, still seem to be against the idea that Asian students should be excluded from the holiday. Many parents express that they do not believe that child labour is okay but still don’t want to change the tradition of a ridiculously long summer holiday—even though it is, in part, built on expecting child labour. Others express their views that agriculture no longer a representative job of the British people, and that it shouldn’t (because it doesn’t offer the same economic benefits that our service and research economy offer). However, agriculture is still deeply embedded in our culture and we should encourage all people to take part in it.

This is how I feel about religious holidays. Perhaps it is true that the date of Easter is the result of the Church hijacking an old Pagan celebration of fertility, and the eggs and rabbits are the symbols of said fertility (and—rather fittingly—of Spring and re-birth). I think that is true, but even if it isn’t, so what? What can it possibly matter? Easter and the bank holiday are as cultural as they are religious. Spring is worth celebrating; fertility (and the goddess of fertility, love, war and sex, Ishtar—pronounced “Easter”) is worth celebrating. It’s obviously not an entirely Christian holiday, after all what does the word “Easter” mean? Christmas and Passover, as words, have clear roots in the theology. Easter is a word that just sounds like the name of another (probably false) goddess. What have the cross and Jesus got to do with rabbits and eggs? Nearly all the imagery is irreligious.

Fertility, by the way, is something I think is worth celebrating. And that is likely to be my next post; I want to write something about the things I chose to celebrate; what I do believe. But fertility is not the main reason I celebrate Easter. Neither is the imagery of re-birth (whether that imagery be religious, pagan or just describe what happens in Spring), although that is worth celebrating. I celebrate it because I can.

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