Regular churchgoers know who they are…those people who only darken the door of the church twice a year, and because they do, it means that you have to get there that much earlier in order to get your regular seat, and not get stuck out in the extra seats that were hastily set up in the narthex (that’s churchese for “lobby”) to handle the overflow crowd…even though you’re one of the regulars.
These are “C&E Christians.” The derisive term we use to describe those people who seem to only show up at church on Christmas and Easter.
But I’m not here to talk about C&E Christians today. I’m here to talk about C&E non-Christians.
What are they? They’re people who celebrate Christmas and Easter without being Christian, indeed without being religious at all. People who celebrate them both as purely secular holidays.
Did your brain just explode at the thought of that? It happened to the brain of one of my wife’s friends. This woman, when she found out that there were people out there who celebrate Christmas purely for the tree and the gifts, and Easter purely for the candy, nearly had a stroke. She was raised in a good Catholic family, and of course they were religious holidays…or holy days. Of course Jesus was the reason behind both of them. How could you possibly celebrate them as purely secular holidays? It made absolutely no sense!
Well…if you know a little history, it makes all the sense in the world. Let’s start with Christmas.
I’ve mentioned this here before , but it bears repeating, despite what many Christians say, and want to think, Jesus isn’t the reason for the season. The season existed long before he did, and before Christianity arrived in many places. The Roman Saturnalia, Northern European Yule, and general European solstice festivals had many of the trappings that we now associate with Christmas. Then when the Church decided to put the Feast of the Nativity right smack in the middle of all this, they all got celebrated together, as one thing. And, as I’ve said so many times before, it’s like choosing to get married on July 4th. It may be your special day as a couple, but it was everyone else’s day for fireworks and cookouts first; and you can’t really complain that everyone’s not giving you the attention that you think you deserve when that day rolls around every year.
So what about Easter? This one’s a little trickier, but let me start by asking where you think the bunnies and the eggs come from in the first place? From the European fertility celebration of goddess Oester (from which we get estrogen). You know, bunnies…and eggs…fertility…get it? English and German are two of the very few languages in which the name Feast of the Resurrection is a variant of Oester, and as a result, this leads many English-speaking agnostics and atheists to believe that the Christian celebration is a total steal of the old fertility festival. Nope…all we stole was the name, because the two celebrations occurred at the same time. In Latinate languages, the name of the Feast of the Resurrection is some variant on Pascha, which itself is very similar to Passover. And if you know the Easter story, you know that the events of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday all took place during Passover; so it makes perfect sense.
And where did all the candy come from in the first place? As a great way to celebrate the end of Lent!
So celebrating Easter merely for the chocolate bunnies and eggs? Well…I suppose that devotees of Oester might have a problem with you making light of their religion. On the other hand, since it was a fertility festival, they might just have a better way of celebrating it than with chocolate.
So now that you know about the celebrations that were already in place, these people who celebrate Christmas and Easter as purely secular holidays…the C&E non-Christians…shouldn’t seem so strange after all.
Now go have some chocolate!