This started off as an e-mail to Nicole (or Coley, I’m not sure which she prefers), but I quickly realized that I had a lot to say about the matter and figured I’d post it here.
First, some background: I was raised Catholic. I went to a Catholic elementary school and a Catholic high school. Near the tail end of that, I was a Eucharistic Minister and took part in two retreat teams - one at school, and one for Confirmation candidates. If you are so inclined, you can read the whole story in an older post.
I’ve always found it sort of funny that Easter plays second fiddle to Christmas. I can remember being told, probably in third or fourth grade, that Easter was more important than Christmas because Jesus’ resurrection was the reason that everyone thought he was so damn special. But Christmas was this big ordeal, with weeks of decorations, three different family parties (in my family, anyway), scores of gifts, and all the excitement that comes with being a kid on Christmas. Easter, on the other hand, was a dozen colored eggs, an Easter basket, dinner with half the family, and maybe a longer Mass than usual, if we went to the one where they did the Stations of the Cross - not very interesting, at least not for a nine year-old. I remember being told, “Easter is the reason for Christmas - if Jesus hadn’t risen from the dead, we wouldn’t celebrate his birthday.”
And technically speaking, it’s true: Jesus’ resurrection is what separated him from other prophets of the time. But in our capitalist society, chocolate eggs never stood a chance against the economic juggernaut of Christmas. I don’t think I’ve ever known a Christian who made a bigger deal of Easter than Christmas, but I think most would tell you that’s the way it should be. This seems to me to be an American thing: we like having parties and giving presents more than we like talking about dead guys coming back from the dead (it’s worth noting that we still like that enough for at least one successful zombie movie every year). Other parts of the world - and surely some folks in America, I don’t mean to generalize for everyone - celebrate the “more important” Easter more so than Christmas. Hell, seven guys in the Philippines were crucified the other day - I don’t think many people in the US opt for that kind of remembrance.
It really doesn’t matter which is more dogmatically important (at least not to a lot of people), because the religious meaning of the holidays in this country has degraded significantly over the years. Easter has become more like the springtime pagan celebration that birthed it, and even as an atheist, I love Christmas - it’s the only time I get to see most of my extended family each year. When all is said and done, neither of them bothers me. I don’t often run into devout worshipers that try to preach to me, so Easter in particular goes by without incident. At this time in this society, the holidays don’t have the religious weight they used to, so they’re not worth getting worked up about.