Every time a major holiday comes around, I always have to question the origin of the associated festivities. When Christmas approaches in the dead of winter, I wonder what a tree covered in twinkling lights has to do with the meaning of the holiday itself. And with Easter coming up soon, I'm again attempting to make a connection between the commercial world and the true meaning: between the resurrection of Jesus and bunnies and eggs. In fact, months in advance to Easter, any supermarket I walk into has great displays of chocolate and plastic eggs at their entrances, or entire aisles dedicated to Easter baskets and rows of candy.
Despite the overly obvious fear that our society is deserting the devout roots of holidays for a more modern take, what really concerns me about the increasing commercial significance placed on certain holidays is the inherent disregard for other religions. Easter is a Christian holiday. With 78.4 percent of adults in the United States that practice some form of the Christian faith, supermarkets obviously have grounds to cater to this religion. But what about the other 21.6 percent? Just because they are not part of the majority, do we just disregard them?
More importantly, are they at all bothered when they walk into a store and see extravagant spectacles of Easter bunnies and eggs when they do not even celebrate that holiday? Despite that Easter is significantly represented, are they bothered that commercial stores do not even have so much as a shelf for their holiday? There are, after all, more religious holidays in the spring months than simply Easter. Passover, a Jewish holiday, is celebrated from April 4th to the 11th. The Beginning of Ramadan, an Islamic celebration, begins on the 18th of June.
The problem is not exclusive to only Spring though. During the winter holidays, are other religious affiliations perturbed at the sight of rows and rows of Christmas trees? Would they rather see dreidals and Menorahs at department stores? Kinara candles and Mkekas? Would they rather hear "Happy Hanukah" over "Merry Christmas"? Not even that they have entire entrances and aisles devoted to their holiday, but maybe just a single row?
I've wondered for quite a while whether those in the 21.6 percent are at all distraught over living in a predominantly Christian society. Surprisingly, I continue to find evidence to the contrary. Last winter, when I was mulling over the question, my math teacher asked the class whether we'd like to listen to Christmas carols. At the suggestion, I turned to a friend of mine, whom is Jewish, and asked him whether he minded. He promptly answered that he didn't care. I was, to say the very least, surprised. Later that same day, after mentioning the story to my sister, she told me that two of her Jewish friends enjoyed participating in Christmas.
The same is true for the holiday right on our heels. Many of the people that attend my school are Christian. The ones that aren't, however, still partake in the festivities and joys of Easter: going on Easter egg hunts or chomping on chocolate bunnies. The more I see of those outside the Christian religion, the more I see they are unconcerned that their religion is not represented, or that Christianity dominates the scene. Though their disregard may remove any grievance they could potentially have over their religion not being fully represented, their secular participation in a holiday not of their religion may help to explain why holidays are becoming less centered on religion.
In fact, maybe increased commercialism is only hindering a much greater problem: that those who do not celebrate the religion are participating in that religious holiday. And, as a result, are creating a less religious association.
Currently, 69% of adults in America celebrate Easter with religious roots. More importantly, a severe gap between the elder and the young has developed, with 78% of those 66 and older viewing Easter as religious, but only 56% of those aged 18 to 27 observing a religious Easter. This goes to show that the younger generation, which is exposed to the increased commercialism and dwindling religious significance placed on major holidays, is becoming less focused and aware of religious meaning and implication.
Many would read this and see it as an antic to make those that celebrate Easter without religious affiliation feel guilty. That, however, is not the point. Regardless of the religion you follow or the holiday you celebrate, holidays should be a time to be with those you love and cherish, and to take a break and enjoy. Whether that takes your faith into account or not is a personal decision for every human being. When Easter--or any holiday for that matter--is made out to be about commercialized goods and ignorance to all other religions in the world (or even the one actually being celebrated), then that's where problems spout.
But maybe it's a good thing no one is bothered by the huge preference towards Easter.
Or is it?
Is it a good thing that people from separate religions aren't bothered by the fact that their holidays are neither supported nor recognized by commercial stores or schools or public places? Is it a good thing that outside religions will happily join in the festivities of a certain religious holiday without actually reflecting on or understanding the true meaning? Is it a good thing that the Easter Bunny delivers to all houses in the tall tales we tell children -- even if not every household celebrates Easter?