Stop Selling Easter
More dispatches from Vietnam on Monday. Happy Easter!
You can't blame them for trying. Retailers, that is.
For years, they've been on a breathless mission to turn Easter into an orgy of shopping, decorating and debt. Just like Christmas.
They haven't succeeded, but they're inching ever closer. Their relentless campaign has resulted in post-Easter business stories that sport alarming headlines such as this: "The Easter Bunny has Retail Sales Hopping."
I'm writing this for Good Friday. So far, I've gotten at least three emails prodding me to think about "last-minute Easter gift ideas." One promotion was for a gem-encrusted egg pendant. Another was for discounted online electronics.
Easter gifts? I don't think so. Lavish jewelry to wear one day a year? No thanks. An Easter laptop or Kindle or cellphone? Never.
And while we're on the topic of the commercialization of Easter, this needs to be said: That giant bunny-man on a throne in the middle of most malls? He's creepy. Santa is a sweet old guy. That oversized rabbit is more of a chimera.
When my kids were young, they were afraid of him. Frankly, so was I.
As a devotee of capitalism, I suppose I should applaud this shameless effort to make a few bucks off the resurrection. But as a Christian, I balk. Seems to me, we ought to be able to keep one religious holiday safe from the insatiable sharks of consumerism.
Let's fight for Easter.
My first real encounter with Easter excess came when my oldest kid was in middle school and one of her friends excitedly told the class she was getting an iPod. For Easter!
"What am I getting?" my daughter wondered.
"I hate to ruin surprises, but since you asked, it'll either be a hollow chocolate bunny or solid chocolate rabbit," I replied. "I haven't decided. Oh yeah, and a flock of Peeps that you have to share with me."
There were no iAnythings nestled on a bed of jelly beans at my house that year - or any year since.
I know what's coming. A lecture about the pagan roots of Christian holidays. How it's futile to try to keep the true meaning of holidays that are already hybrids.
Every December we hear that by decorating fir trees and burning Yule logs, we're celebrating the birth of Baby Jesus as nature worshippers once celebrated the winter solstice.
And at Easter, we're reminded that eggs and bunnies are nothing more than ancient symbols of birth and fertility that are not remotely related to the miracle of Easter.
So what? Just because our major religious feasts incorporate delightful non-Christian traditions doesn't mean we have to celebrate by running up our credit cards.
Even nominal Christians understand that there's a difference between Christmas and Easter. If Christmas has turned into a modern-day Saturnalia - and in some ways it has - it should stand as an object lesson for Easter.
Today's Christian holiday is a holy day. A complicated one. It's a happy occasion, but also the culmination of Holy Week, a spiritual roller coaster for believers.
Easter Sunday doesn't have to become another holiday characterized by stress and excess.
Unless we let that happen.
A version of this column appeared in The Virginian-Pilot on Mar 31, 2013.