Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Easter That Wasn't

As I and my family delve more deeply into our exploration of Judaism, we are beginning to celebrate new holidays and stopping the celebration of others. Easter has been the first real test of this.

I didn’t truly realize how Christianized our secular American society is (or how secularized Christian traditions are) until this past week. Sure I knew it, I just didn’t get it. It’s not like we were ever Christians. As a UU with an atheist husband we certainly never celebrated the birth of Jesus or his resurrection. The holidays were primarily secular in nature for us. They were about traditions like visiting Santa at the nearby tree farm, listening to carols while baking cookies, or hiding eggs around the house for the girls to find. They were also materialistic, with Christmas being the primary gift giving day of the year and Easter the primary candy giving one. Mostly, they were about family and community. And because of this I had no qualms defending non-Christian celebration of these holidays to some of my devout acquaintances, who believe that if you don’t believe in Christ, you don’t have any business celebrating their holiday. I also had no problem arguing for the inclusion of things like Christmas trees or carols at the holiday office party. “Yes, I know that there are people in the office that don’t celebrate Christmas, but it’s just music! I’m not a Christian and I love it!”

But a funny thing happened on the way to conversion. All of a sudden it doesn’t seem appropriate for my family to celebrate these holidays. All of a sudden they feel very religious indeed. The thought crossed my mind that we could have baskets, candy and a visit from an oversized bunny on Sunday, but why? Why celebrate an event that I don’t believe happened? And how do you justify baskets and a bunny when they both have “Easter” in the title?

In the days, weeks even, leading up to the holiday I informed the girls whenever the subject came up that “we won’t be celebrating Easter this year”. Thankfully, Passover was the Monday night before Easter, so we had something else to look forward to, and the girls really enjoyed our Seder. Saskia certainly didn’t seem to mind the exclusion of Easter. In fact I overheard her on the phone Saturday night telling a friend, “We don’t celebrate Easter. My mom is becoming Jewish.” The other girl must have asked something because there was a pause and then she said, “I want to become Jewish too.” Talk about a proud mommy moment! But I digress…

Fiona is clearly more confused about the whole thing, and society isn’t helping. In school they have been coloring pictures of Easter bunnies for weeks. On Thursday they dyed eggs and had an Easter party. On Saturday when she went shopping with me the cashiers at every store asked her a variety of “Are you excited for Easter? Have you painted eggs yet? What do you think the Easter bunny will bring you?” questions. She just looked at them and didn’t say anything, partly because she doesn’t really like talking to strangers and partly because well, what could she say? And it was then that I got it. How pervasive Christian holidays are in secular American society. How frankly annoying it is to have everyone around you assume you celebrate them too, even if you’re not Christian.

I’m beginning to think that perhaps all those people who get huffy about celebrating Christmas and Easter in secular settings like schools and offices were right all along. The fact is, they are religious holidays and they are not for everyone. While I can wish my Christian friends a “Happy Easter” and understand that I am expressing my desire for them to enjoy their holiday, I can’t explain to my children why the Easter bunny doesn’t come to our house any more (they haven’t asked yet, but I’m sure Fiona will eventually) and right now, I wish that schools and TV and grocery store clerks didn’t make such a big deal out of it so I wouldn’t have to.

1 comment:

findingmygrounduu said...

Sounds like the conversion process is occurring, Christina! After my mom converted (and I left Christianity), I noticed the same. The assumption of EVERYONE that EVERYONE is celebrating Christian holidays is overwhelming. While we're still floating in holiday limbo, I'd delighted to see your joy in the switch. Hurray!