"Those have a short Lent, who owe money to be paid at Easter." - Franklin

March 10, 2008

The rains at the end of this week washed a lot of the snow away (although more is expected (a 40% chance) midweek), and with the sun shining so much later on us today I can almost truly imagine that spring will actually arrive sometime before June. I’m starting to think about outdoor projects (the gutters need cleaned, we need to do something about the broken cement and expanding mud hole at the end of the driveway, the fence needs fixed after last fall’s storm, I still want to find a way to make the back lawn livable … and we’re finally going to get the roof done this spring, hurray!), and friends are also starting to talk about camping trips and plan outdoor activities for the summer.

Spring also means Easter, and the whole odd bundle of problems and issues that we need to sort out in order to find solutions to that are right for our family. I’m sure Jesus was an historical personage, but I doubt that he either was born of a Virgin or was raised from the dead. (Do feel free, however, ask me sometime about my views on the relationship of the cult of good ol’ Sol Invictus to the development of Christianity, or even the roles of James vs. Paul/Saul in the fight for the focus and direction of the early Christian Church. But I digress.) I have no problems with – indeed have a deep love for – the secular aspects of Christmas and look forward to the celebration (sans creche but with a large helping of peace on earth, goodwill to all) and all that goes with it. Easter, however, is a thornier problem. (You’ll pardon the pun there, right?) E’s father is still a believer at his core (although not a churchgoer), and sometimes, in unexpected ways, the differences in our beliefs cause us to have to negotiate about unexpected things, often at a moment’s notice. Thankfully, E is, of course, young enough to not really know that his parents are struggling over Easter baskets at the moment.

Despite the ubiquitous rabbits, chicks, glazed hams and chocolate eggs, I do view Easter as a much more deeply reliougs holiday than the Yuletide season. I’m not sure why this should be so, but it is. Which leaves me with much more highly conflicted feelings about it. On the one hand, of course I don’t want to deprive my son of the clutural touchstone of getting an Easter Basket (although I’d like to wait a few years on the chocolate bunnies, thanks), or going on an Easter egg hunt, or … yeah, I guess those are the only two. On the other hand, of course, I would feel like a huge hypocryte if I were to begin an all-out, fancy-dress celebration of the ‘holiday’. On the third hand (don’t you often wish you had a third hand?), I can easily get behind the celebration of Easter as a traditional expression of our deep-seated cultural desire to celebrate the return green grass, flowering plants and all that is fertile, healthy and new about the world.

My mother is devout, and would like nothing more than to take E to church with her on Easter morning, and fully indoctrinate him into the whole “he is risen” mindset. Josh’s parent’s are, I would say, more secular Christians, in that they celebrate Easter and Christmas in a secular way, but with an understanding and belief in the religious traditions behind the secular ones. I have no objection to E being exposed to a variety of beliefs … indeed, one point I keep trying to make with my mother with regard to E’s baptism is that I don’t feel that I should “limit” him to a specific path as an infant, but that I would prefer to leave his theological options an open field for him to cross in his own way when he becomes an adult.

So I’m sure we’ll have Easter Baskets with chocolate bunnies. And maybe even an Easter Egg hunt. But when E asks me “Mamma, what is Easter?” I don’t yet know what I’m going to tell him.

Fortunately, I have a little more time to figure it out.