This is more about Christmas the religious holiday than the secular one…but the second grew from the first, so it’s about that too.
From the most basic perspective, Christianity, Inc. has its holidays flipped. As a religion, Christmas – the birth of Christ – is given the bulk of the attention. From Advent to decoration, to services, pageants, celebrations, all of it – it is all about Christmas. Easter, the holiday that should have the most importance, is a distant second. It is important to note here that I am referring to the protestant church, which I have seen all my life, and have seen Christmas and Easter celebrations in several flavors. I am not, and never have been Catholic. So my experience of how they approach it is much less clear. I suspect it’s similar, but cannot prove that.
Why Is Easter More Important?
Stripped of the religious trappings, Christmas is a birthday, Easter is…impossible to do without some level of religion. Easter is the moment when a smallish band of reformers formed something new. It’s the moment when reform became religion.
In that sense, there is no Christian holiday with more importance. Easter is the birth of the church. The moment the tomb opened was the beginning of Christianity. Easter should have all the attention, but it doesn’t.
Why Christmas, Then?
Humans are weird. We are, possibly uniquely, able to hold two conflicting thoughts in place at once. And then proceed to act on them both. Anyone who has studied their beliefs, as a Christian, knows that Easter is more important. And yet, we still place tons of emphasis on Christmas over Easter. Why?
It is, I think, because we get Christmas. We really don’t get Easter.
What do I mean? Well, like I said above, Christmas is, at the core, a birthday. And no, I won’t be getting into the date being off, the pre-existing pagan stuff plastered over everything, and all the changes and compromises of the early church that made Christmas into what it is today. Nope. Those things are not the point – even though they matter.
No, the point is that every person in history understands the idea of a birthday. We all get one. Having a birthday is the single most common element of being human. We were all born. Jesus is no exception. He was born. We all share that. And because we all share that commonality, we can place our own desires and needs on top of the celebration of Jesus’ birth.
And if you think about it, Christmas is, in a lot of ways, a second birthday party for everyone who celebrates. We celebrate His birthday by having another one for ourselves.
So, in a very deep manner, we all understand Christmas as a birthday. Religion aside, we deeply understand this idea of celebrating birth.
But Easter…That’s Not Common
Easter, on the other hand, is not a shared experience. Our tradition tells us precisely two people would understand Easter in the same way we all understand Christmas – Lazarus and Jesus. And they are not around to explain it.
Easter is the resurrection – the moment that the early converts to Jesus message of reform became the foundation of a new faith. He came back…which no one else did. Judaism doesn’t have this story. Islam doesn’t have this story. No other monotheistic faith has this story. Just Christianity.
I have come to think that the lack of common experience makes Easter less approachable to the average person. There is a supernatural component in there that can’t be really processed. It is just far enough outside the realm of human experience that we can’t process it fully.
So…What’s The Point Of This?
Good question! I don’t know, exactly. This isn’t some neo-Puritan anti-Christmas thing. It’s mostly just something I wanted to get out there, a thought about why we have this huge commercial celebration that kind of shouldn’t be there. We have people proclaiming a ‘war on Christmas’. And based on the nonsense seen on social media, being jerks about it. We have stress over the huge significance attached to this holiday, which only exists because of the inflated importance of Christmas.
If there is a point, other than to be a think piece about why this over that, the point would be to relax. The commercial holiday became what it is because it was pasted onto a misunderstood religious holiday. Don’t stress it. If you are feeling anxious because of the trappings of what you see as a major Christian holiday, don’t. Yes, it is the birth of Christ. But you know what…you were born too. At that moment, you shared the experience of birth with Him. Christmas is celebrating that. Birth.
From a place of faith, it’s not a big achievement – we all did that.
If faith has you stressed, remember that this isn’t the big moment, and the events of Easter are far more important. Our ancestors just got it backwards.