Speaking to the Soul: What happened to “Happy Easter?”

by

by Linda Ryan

 

I remember being told when I was younger that as you get older time goes by faster. It used to be the three months of summer vacation from school flew by. It hardly seemed like I had gotten out of school in  the middle of June when it was time to go back again after Labor Day. Now the same period of time drags a little, mainly because of the heat here in Arizona, but it still seems to go fairly quickly when I look back on it. It’s because I’m getting older I guess, but I wonder what has programmed to me to feel this way? Another mystery I have to investigate.

For instance, here it is, the middle of April, and I’m wondering why it feels like Christmas was just last week. I like Christmas, and it seems like lots of other people like Christmas too because all through December, while my denomination celebrates Advent and tries to avoid saying “Christmas” in terms of greetings, the world, even non-Christians, will often greet one another with “Merry Christmas.”

 

There has been talk for years that there is what they call, “War on Christmas,” where allegedly people are discouraged from using the word “Christmas” and especially “Merry Christmas,” and encouraged to be a little more diversified, like “Happy Holidays,” which, at least, has the intimation of covering all celebrations occurring in the time roughly between Christmas Day and New Year’s and a bit beyond. It really isn’t a war on Christmas. People say it all the time, in fact they say it usually for the whole month of December up until December 25. After December 25 world cuts out Christmas and goes on to Happy New Year. By Christmas Eve at midnight, the stores are already filling up with Valentine cards and what have you. Christmas Day? It’s over, let’s move on.

In a church which believes in the 12 days of Christmas ending on Epiphany on January 6, this can be somewhat discouraging. We are just getting started with the celebration of  Christmas when everybody else is finished. We don’t hear Christmas carols for us; we heard them during Advent, but that’s only on the radio, in the stores, and in a lot of churches. We never hear them in our church, not until December 24th. There are other denominations that are the same. Yet still come December 25th, we seldom hear “Merry Christmas” for the full 12 days of the season.

But how about the season that we’re in now, the Easter season? During Holy Week, the week preceding Easter, people will accept a greeting of “Happy Easter,” and Easter cards, endless candy and chocolate rabbits and even chocolate crosses are presented to be consumed beginning on Easter Sunday, some of it allegedly given by the Easter Bunny. But Easter Sunday, like Christmas Day, cuts off for the rest of the world and we keep going.

 

Easter for us is a season of 50 days, lasting up until Pentecost which is about the end of May. Like Christmas, though, we don’t really use the phrase “Happy Easter” after Easter Sunday. I wonder why that is? We don’t say it the week before because we have to go through the progression of Holy Week with the adulation on Palm Sunday, focus on Judas on Tenebrae, foot washing and the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday, the crucifixion and entombment of Christ on Good Friday, the waiting of Holy Saturday, and then finally on Saturday night and Sunday morning we celebrate Easter like the biggest birthday party ever. The Sunday after Easter is often called  “Low Sunday” for a  reason. People often feel that they’ve gotten their church ticket punched during Holy Week and Easter Sunday and that makes them good until Christmas.  But nobody really says “Happy Easter, even this close to the day. We still have, what, six more weeks of Easter season? Why aren’t we saying “Happy Easter” more often, and not just saving it for one special occasion?

 

During Lent and the rest of the church year, Easter is commemorated every Sunday. We celebrate a little Easter, we remember that the resurrection came on a Sunday, and we sort of go through a bit of Holy Week every Sunday morning in our liturgy. There is a  procession, not necessarily waving palms, when the ministers enter the church and remind us of the procession into Jerusalem. We move on to the Eucharist which is the celebration of Jesus giving us his body and blood from the Maundy Thursday celebration. And then, like Christ arising from the tomb, we’re sent out into the world to take the light and the message to the world itself. You know, though, we still don’t say, “Happy Easter.”

Maybe it’s a picky one thing. I mean, in the greater scheme of things, how important is it that we say “Happy Easter” ? For that matter, how important is it that we say “Merry Christmas”? Or “Happy Hanukkah” (although we do it during the 8 days of Hanukkah, oddly enough). Or even using a specific greeting for Kwanzaa or any of the other religious celebrations that focus around that same time, and believe me, there’s a lot more than one or two. So why is important for us to remember to say “Happy Easter”?

I think for me it’s the recognition that we are still in a celebratory period. We are Easter people, and this is our season. Granted, Christmas is important, because if Jesus hadn’t been born, we would not have Easter in the first place, or at least Easter as we know it. The idea is putting something out into the world with words that people can hear.  Granted probably 90 people out of 100 will be thinking a person saying “Happy Easter” at toward the end of May is probably really weird. Never mind that the Orthodox are quite often week behind us on Easter, so we have a legitimate reason for saying it to all our Orthodox brothers and sisters even after we, like the stores, have packed up Easter and started to move on towards whatever comes next.

What if we actually said Happy Easter” to someone? Maybe it would prompt them to ask us why, and, there’s our chance for some evangelism because we could tell them precisely why. 

This week I think I’m going to try saying it to somebody. I may start off small, like my next-door neighbor, a devout Christian lady, who might be curious as to why I’m saying that. Of course, if she reads this, she’ll know why, but still, after I do something once it’s a lot easier to do something a second time. I may use it with my Education for Ministry groups this week, just see how they react.

He is risen, the focus message of Easter and all the little Easters that come after it. We celebrate it all year, so why not use the phrase at least during the official liturgical season?  It might give us an opportunity to do a little evangelism?  Maybe it would be a turnoff for some, who knows? It might just open some conversational doors. This week I’m going to try it. May I invite you to do the same? We can always give it up at Pentecost, and Christmas will be here before you know it.

God bless – and Happy Easter!

 


 

Linda Ryan co-mentors 2 EfM Online groups and keeps the blog Jericho’s Daughter.  She lives in the Diocese of Arizona and is proud to be part of the Church of the Nativity in North Scottsdale.

 
Image: By Jan Kameníček (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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leslie marshall
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leslie marshall

Happy Passover! The last day of Passover celebrates The Messiah's resplendent arrival, and the beginning of the Messianic Era.

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David Allen
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David Allen

The last day of Passover celebrates the parting of the Red Sea, the escape of the Israelites from Pharoah's army on dry land and then the destruction of that army with the collapse of the sea upon them. (Rabbi's in Babylon later added the idea that only the Pharoah survived the sea to allow him to give testimony of that destruction.)

A few hundred years ago a Hasidic rabbi added the idea of celebrating a dawning of the messianic age with the meal on the last day of Passover. It is the Jews of that Jewish sect who celebrate this on the last day of Passover.

(I dated a Reconstructionist Jew for almost 3 years.)

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Thom Forde
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Thom Forde

My Jewish daughter-in-law greeted us with "Christ is risen..." which caught us a bit by surprise until she finished with "...so he's not kosher!" 🙂

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Jay Croft
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Jay Croft

The Easter season is fifty days, and incorporates both the post-resurrection appearances of our Lord and the beginnings of the Church. One of my favorite seasons.

I have yet to hear a plausible explanation of why Ascension Day is studiously ignored by most Episcopal churches. It's a great excuse for a parish picnic!

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Linda Ryan
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I guarantee, any Episcopal parish with the name "Ascension" in it will be celebrating joyously. Still, you do have a point. 🙂 Most of us usually wait for Pentecost and have birthday cake!
Thanks for commenting!

Happy Easter, Christos Anesti, and blessed all the feasts and commemorations from now until Pentecost (including Ascension Day!)

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Sharon
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Sharon

[thanks for commenting - please sign your full name for future comments -- editor]

Your Orthodox brothers and sisters are greeting each other with "Christ Is Risen!", and responding "Truly He Is Risen!" from Easter Sunday to Pentecost. Other denominations also incorporate those proclamations into the liturgy, too, as I recall. The haste to put Easter, or Christmas, behind us and hurry on to the next holiday is a purely secular, commerce-driven phenomenon, isn't it?

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Linda Ryan
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Yes, when it is mentioned, it is still "Christ is Risen" and "He is risen indeed!" I would be nice if all of us used it throughout the 50 days of Easter, but "Happy Easter" was used for a point. I tried it on a friend at breakfast this morning and even though he was RC, he looked at me as if I'd grown 2 heads until I explained why I did it. It was actually kinda fun!

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Paul Woodrum
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Christos anesti! It's no doubt picky, but Easter Sunday is redundant. It's simply, Easter Day. It's fallen on Sunday without fail for nearly 2,000 years. Other than that, I too have wondered why we so devoutly keep the forty days of Lent and then give short shrift to consciously observing fifty days of Easter.

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Linda Ryan
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I used Easter Sunday for two reasons: One is because I was brought up using that particular moniker, and it's hard to give up. The second is to separate the one day from the entire season. Yeah, picky, but hey, it helps get the point across. Thanks for the comment.
Alithos anesti!

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