I love Easter. For me it’s the richest of the Christian festivals. We mourn a terrible loss and reflect on the injustices inflicted on a man who lived and preached revolutionary kindness; we reflect on our faults and all the things we might do to become kinder people ourselves; we sit quietly with the knowledge that redemption is found in every good thing we do. And then we eat a lot of chocolate. What more could you want from religion?
I’m not religious. Having been raised half Catholic and half Socially Conscientious Agnostic Weirdo, as a kid I went to mass every Sunday and then, once home, was questioned about what I learned there. As an ever questing questioner myself, I was never going to last long in any kind of formal religion. Atheism came gently and logically for me at sixteen, and I’ve never grieved the loss of the Church in my life.
Over the ensuing thirty years, I’ve gained a lot of Easter chocolate, though. Having been raised half Catholic and half Socially Conscientious Agnostic Weirdo, my parents were incredibly stingy with the Red Tulip, and so I decided early on that I was never going to be as mean to my children. Although they are both men now and live far away, I’ve just posted them packages full of eggs and bunnies (and the obligatory undies-from-mum). I have a little box of chocolates hidden in my sock drawer to give to my husband on Sunday morning, too. Because chocolate is nearly as magical as kindness, isn’t it?
But more deeply, and personally, Easter has never lost its melancholy base note for me. Every year, I can almost feel the Good Friday full moon rising over my shoulder, compelling me to take stock: what have I done to improve myself, to overcome my failings, what have I learned, how hard have I tried to make my world a better place, how hard have I worked for others? Not exactly comfortable questions, as the answer is always: not nearly enough.
Is it lingering religion in me, an unsettling aversion-attraction to paschal purple? Or is it just the cranky old man in the moon shaking his finger, telling me that time is getting away as autumn begins to chill the air? I don’t know. It’s Easter. And it’s an excellent thing, really. To contemplate how sadness can be transformed into joy through giving; to consider the miracle it is that we each have the power to roll away the tombstones of loss and live again: sweeter and brighter. Wiser.
So here’s cheers to Easter, whatever this festival might mean for you, may it bring renewed faith and possibility to all your best, big-hearted dreams. As well as bulk loads of chocolate, of course…