Why I Celebrate Resurrection on Easter (but don't feel compelled to banish the bunnies)

Lately I’ve been reading some posts about Easter, a few focusing on our “misplaced priorities”—bunnies and eggs vs Jesus—and I have to tell you I’m quite torn. 

I like the idea of Easter being about Jesus, of observing a sort of Christian Passover. I think it’s beautiful and appropriate. We do have some sense as to the calendar day of Christ’s resurrection (unlike his birth) and, as it coincides so well with the newness of the spring season, I wonder how anybody could not talk about resurrection this coming Sunday. 

But some won’t.

I remember celebrating Easter one year with my family at the breakfast table before worship. We  chowed down on Reese’s chocolate eggs and then dressed in our new Easter clothes and headed to our church where the lesson was on, not surprisingly, the evils of celebrating Easter. The preacher said we had no reason to make this a special day and no evidence that the first century church celebrated Easter. He then laid into Easter baskets.

Which I thought was weird. Because here’s the way I saw it at the time: Either (1) Easter is a religious holiday and as such it should be celebrated in a religious way OR (2) Easter is not a religious holiday and we can do whatever we feel like doing that day (other than talking about the risen Christ). If Easter’s not religious, why did the preacher care about the bunnies?

So that’s where I come from—NO talking about the resurrection on Easter in church (not even a “Low in the Grave” with three verses and one rousing chorus). 

That seems misguided.

Now though, I can see a little myopia in the only-religious perspective, too. Because it’s true we don’t have a celebrate-Easter example from the New Testament church. Easter is a VERY old tradition dating back to the second century, and that makes me like it very much, but (BUT) celebrating Easter (the Christian Passover) is not a holy mandate.

In fact, Paul gets all over some people who try to make the observance of special days or Jewish traditions mandatory attendance. He says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.”

Some people say that Easter’s roots are in paganism. But Paul says it’s not a big deal to eat the meat burned in sacrifice to idols, so long as you have a clear conscience and you’re not offending the weak. Is an Easter basket (or a Christmas tree) much different?

I can understand the argument that Easter egg hunts and pictures with baby chicks and white panty hose for toddlers might muddy the Easter waters and I totally agree that we shouldn’t spend a fortune on fancy clothes or gratuitous Easter baskets for our kids, but I feel, too, like whatever we do on Easter is an exercise in liberty, the very liberty Christ died and rose to give.

My husband and I are in the process of figuring out how we’ll observe Easter with our kids. We nixed the candy-filled baskets this year mostly because we think they get too many presents and too much junk food in general. We’re thinking of eating lamb, which I think is very cool and maybe too literal, and we will certainly eat it in the company of others who love us, who we love, and who love Jesus. My girls will wear new (very affordable) dresses because I like to think of this resurrection celebration as a rehearsal for the final resurrection and on that day we’ll all wear shiny, white new clothes. We’ll probably wake up at sunrise and go outside with the girls and a few blankets and drink hot tea (and milk and apple juice) and talk about how great it is that Jesus didn’t stay dead and that we won’t stay dead either.

We will do all of these things on Easter because they have become (and are becoming) our family traditions. I do not expect others to do as I do, but I encourage others to celebrate the day in a way—any way—that glorifies our LIVING God.