Holidays come and go. Numerous people like Thanksgiving, some enjoy Christmas, mainly, and others prefer Easter. Often Halloween and St. Patrick's Day are favorites. However, until a few years ago I looked forward most to Christmas -- before I pondered, deeply, a relative's preference for Easter.
As a child and young adult I failed to understand how anyone could prefer any holiday to Christmas. The Christmas season exhibited beautiful decorations and lights, encouraged gift giving, and from a Christian perspective held the birth of Jesus in highest prominence. Both Christian and secular rejoicing brought excitement celebrating the birth of Christ. Too, I was particularly fond of Thanksgiving. Prepared vegetables in shades of orange, brown, yellow and green, fresh baked pumpkin pie at dinner, and the seasonal crispness of the air all added to its appeal -- traditions commemorating the victory of Pilgrims celebrating safety and freedom.
When a relative, Carol, expressed excessive joy in celebrating Easter I wondered what fascination the season held for her. However, I was looking at her preparations from a secular view rather than from a Christian one. It was fun to dye Easter eggs and hide them, receive baskets overflowing with hard-boiled eggs, appetizing candies and mysterious goodies, and gather for family dinners.
Buying a pretty new Easter outfit was always a happy occasion, also, because I felt fresher wearing new clothes to church on Easter morning -- the climax to attending Holy Week services the week before. And I eagerly anticipated celebrating with family on Easter day. In spite of those enticements, my enjoyment of the Easter celebration failed to measure up to some other holidays.
When Carol came to visit each Easter, she brought Easter baskets filled with boiled eggs and scrumptious sweets to all the children plus one for each family, repeating Easter was her favorite season. Still focused on the eggs, family gatherings, rabbits and baskets filled with delicacies, I was mystified concerning her "excessive joy" at Easter.
As I matured, though, I understood the mystery of that joy at Easter. When Carol brought boiled eggs and Easter baskets she was teaching that eggs bring new life just as Jesus gave people new life when he died on Good Friday and rose on Easter morning.
The colorful baskets and candy were small reminders of the brightness, joy and sweetness Christ brought, through that death and resurrection.
I had failed to realize why attaining new clothes for Easter morning had provided such a lift, but I realized they, too, expressed a form of new life to me. The darkness of Lent and Christ's suffering had finally come to an end, and I could release the emotional heaviness caused by remembering the crucifixion. The clothes symbolized a newer, brighter day.
"Fear not because I am with you always, even to the end of time" Matt. 28: 19-20 because nothing could be darker than Christ's death on the cross and he overcame even that horrible ordeal. We, too, can overcome our darkest hour.
Yes, holidays do come and go, and we all have our favorites. But after contemplating the reasons behind the holidays, I no longer concentrate on the outward celebrations of them but on the genuine purpose for which they exist. And I can genuinely confess that, like Carol, Easter is now my favorite holiday too. For I am comforted and rejuvenated each year, knowing through Jesus I can be resurrected from whatever holds me back.
Ellen Shuck is director of religious education at St. Mary's Cathedral in Cape Girardeau.