It’s that special time of year again. Yes, this Sunday is the day that the 43% of weekly-attending religious Americans are joined involuntarily by their nonpracticing relatives and habitually by biannual churchgoers, in the celebration of Eastre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of offspring and springtime.
The folks at the monastery made a typo while interviewing a pagan in the 2nd Century A.D., an error only surpassed by our use of the term “Indian.”
It is widely known, or at least remarked sagely or snidely by the somewhat-informed, that a mythical rabbit of undetermined size, intelligence and finger dexterity steals dozens of hard-boiled eggs from refrigerators in the Americas and Europe, only to relocate them cleverly around the family’s home or backyard. In addition, the rabbit purchases fully-packaged brand-name chocolates from retailers, stimulating the economy. The latter-most assumption was debunked in November 2007, but the rest of the peculiar reasoning remains unchallenged in much of society.
It’s one of the four most marketable holidays– alongside Christmas, Halloween and New Year’s– and this and Christmas are equal parts Pagan, Protestant and Purchase-driven. The first two should be no surprise. Greek civilizations did a similar tradition-blending, taking many faiths and holidays from the various civilizations they conquered or assimilated, resulting in the ones practiced nationally. Since no Greek was of all the faiths simultaneously, its practices and minor-God-references became more a part of the culture than spiritual practice. The Greek Orthodox Christian Church did likewise when it blended Christmas and the Winter Solstice.
Today, an individual would be hard-pressed to point out that their child should not believe in Santa Claus– the parents themselves don’t believe in him, but it has become an indicator of innocence to still believe in the mythical journey, the hope and marketable wonder that accompany the old European philanthropist. Parents want to preserve the belief in a colorful gift-bringer of questionable religious origins. The story of the kid who breaks the tragic news to his class is a horror-story for parents second only to pre-emptive sex ed.
That goes for Easter, too. There may be a bit less sentiment behind it (“the spirit of Easter” didn’t produce nearly as many movies as that other holiday), but Saxon / Semitic origins aside, that shady rodent of poor dental hygiene will likely be carried on as tradition by the next generation.