Why Easter never became a big secular holiday like Christmas

By Tara Isabella Burton

Christians from a variety of traditions will celebrate Easter this Sunday. Easter commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ after his crucifixion. For many Christians, including those from Eastern Orthodox traditions (who generally celebrate Easter later than Western Christians, as they use a different calendar), Easter is the most important Christian holiday of all.

But in North America and Europe, Easter has a diminished cultural force as a time for secular celebration — its wider cultural cachet hardly approaches that of Christmas. As Jesuit priest and writer James Martin wryly wrote for Slate, “Sending out hundreds of Easter cards this year? Attending way too many Easter parties? … Getting tired of those endless Easter-themed specials on television? I didn’t think so.”

So why don’t we celebrate Easter the way we do Christmas? The answer tells us as much about the religious and social history of America as it does about either holiday. It reveals the way America’s holiday “traditions” as we conceive of them now are a much more recent and politically loaded invention than one might expect.

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