When walking down the aisles at Wegmans or Tops, it is hard to forget that Easter is right around the corner. Chocolate bunnies, wicker baskets and a host of colorful streamers are spread all over the store. Indeed, ever since I was a child, I looked forward to this time of year with great anticipation. After all, Cadbury cream eggs, a staple of the American Easter holiday, were my favorite and I just could not wait to open my Easter basket and chow down.
But there was something else going on this time of year growing up that stood as far from candy and bunnies as could be. Growing up as a Roman Catholic, I looked forward to the palm procession on Palm Sunday, marking the beginning of Holy Week. My family would go to church again on Good Friday, mourning the death of Jesus Christ. Then again, on Sunday, we would celebrate the Resurrection of Christ, commemorated with a family gathering and large meal. As an ethnic Lebanese, we would say “Messih ‘Am” (the Messiah has risen) and engage in tournaments, “fighting” one another with painted eggs.
So which Easter was the real Easter? Was it the bunnies and chocolate or what it the death and Resurrection of Christ? I was utterly confused by this as a child and could not reconcile these two seemingly contradictory events. As I got older and my intellectual capacity grew, I became determined to find an answer to my questions.
It turns out that even the word Easter itself is a derivative of the Old English “Eostre,” an Anglo-Saxon goddess worshipped at the beginning of the spring solstice. The “adorable” Easter bunny was a symbol of pagan fertility; the term “spring fever” is surely linked to this.
To make things even worse, most romance languages use a totally different word for Easter. All of these derive from the Latin “Festa Paschalia,” or “Paschal feast.” This term is derived from the Jewish sacrificial lamb, of which Christians believe Christ is the embodiment. Moreover, even in our dear mother tongue, English, the name Easter was more commonly (and appropriately) called “Paschaltide” up until recent times.
Learning all of these sad but veritable truths disappointed me dearly. But as each year goes by, the shock becomes less and less.
It seems rather obvious that our society today has shifted from the “Paschal” to the permissive, from sacrifice to sloth, from faith to futility. Rather than celebrate Lent and Easter as times of sacrifice and anticipation, we have inched ever closer to the pagan days of lust, sloth and pleasure.
Perhaps more disturbing is that Christian churches, be they Roman Catholic or otherwise, have given in to these pagan tides. Passion plays have been replaced by Easter pageants. Rosaries and chaplets have been put aside and Easter baskets have been brought in. So many young people have fallen away from the faith as a result of decades of these pagan falsehoods, Easter bunnies being one of the many examples thereof.
But there is hope in the distance. While these horrid trends do not appear to be going away any time soon, there is a growing resurgence in traditionalism among young people today. Shunning the absurdities and pagan rituals that have taken over this most solemn feast day, they search their world for the traditions that have been lost. In the Roman Catholic Church, mass movements of young people have been desperately crying for a return to a sacrificial Easter, a traditional Latin liturgy and a general restoration of things lost. Across the country, students at America’s top universities have formed religious student organizations separate from official outlets, so often dominated by modernists and liberalizers. Amidst the fog of despair, these young scholars have provided a beacon of hope in a society that is increasingly returning to its desolate, pagan roots.
In short, as this Easter celebration lies just around the corner, I admonish all Christians and those who sympathize with them to cast aside the dominant pagan practices and return to the sacrifice and solemnity of old. When you give in to a pagan Easter, you damage our rich Western culture, promote unwanted and undesirable commercialism and empty your pocketbook and soul in the process.
Though one person alone may seem to be trivial in the scheme of things, your actions can turn you into oasis in a desert of despair. To all of you, I wish a happy and blessed Paschaltide.
Ramey is a graduate student.