"This is another reason why I don't like proper novels,
because they are lies about things which didn't happen and
they make me feel shaky and scared.
And this is why everything I have written here is true.”
― Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Easter is my favorite holiday. I open with this statement in the hopes that somehow later on you will remember I said this and my assignment of preference will invoke some sort of sentiment: pity, nostalgia, sympathy.
Let me start over: It began innocently. My newsfeed trended implications of wily nocturnal activity: "Easter morning is going to be great!" "Baskets are all set!" "The Easter Bunny has visited <insert address here>"
And I smiled at each, interpreting these excited blips: that the parents I know, like me, believe there is value in inserting a little magic and wonder into the lives of their young ones. Encouraging imagination, prolonging the inevitable fall to realism and the stark, cold honesty that is Life.
That warm feeling transitioned smoothly to an old familiar tension, the war of my dichotomous mind. Where is the line between fantasy and fallacy? Can I placate my conscience with the justification that "it's all in good fun" or "a child's joy is worth bending the rules a little"? Is there such thing as a little white lie?
And this year, the negative side of my internal debate tipped the scale, mostly because of what happened the next day. What started as innocent innuendos of spritely mischief morphed into grotesque hyperbole: someone fed the Gremlins. Suddenly my newsfeed was now flooded with photos depicting "this year's haul": piles of games and toys, surrounding bushels called "Easter Baskets". One mother even set her children's "piles" up near the fireplace, quipping about the Easter Bunny coming down the chimney like Santa Claus.
A bad tree cannot bear good fruit.
Let me rewind to my childhood Easter memories to give you some context into my struggle.
Yes, we believed in the Easter Bunny, and I bear no ill will about it. My discovery of the truth wasn't scarring or jarring. I enjoyed the facade as long as it lasted, and still look back fondly on those Easter mornings.
You could say that when I was young, I was a dreamer. I absorbed stories of fiction and fantasy like plants absorb sunlight. I often played alone, making up detailed adventures with unicorns and dragons and fairies. Lying upside-down on the couch, I created an alternate universe where we lived in an upside-down version of our house, and you could get to magical places unreachable while your feet were on the ground.
So that's how Easter began for me: it was a day when the rest of the world affirmed my belief in magic. That, and it was an excuse to get a beautiful frilly new dress, go visit my grandparents, and search for Easter eggs. Easter eggs were a particular favorite - truth be told, they still are. The artist in me sees a unique outlet only available in a small window each year, through which I can work in a medium as quirky as my Magnadoodle, one which requires a similar minimal level of skill to produce a pretty decent product, with seemingly endless possibilities.
But I digress. Why could I say I preferred Easter over other holidays, such as Christmas? Easter was usually less stressful: Christmas always came with an undertone of financial worry in our house. The Easter relaxation, however, was tangible: the timeline was less harried, everyone was in a good mood (no dashed hopes or disappointments) and it was all usually punctuated with warm weather, fragrant flowers, and the promise of Spring.
When I got older and we started going to church, Easter became something different. No, not different, but something more. Because hey, I still enjoyed the childhood traditions. Along with that happiness, and over time dwarfing it, was the joy of celebrating the Resurrection.
As an adult, I find sanctity in the ritual of holiday observance and tradition. I guess I would equate it to the somber meditation of a monk's refrain or the repetition of a liturgy. I find peace, balance, sort of a recentering in the steady, predictable rhythm of the calendar. The celebration of Palm Sunday deteriorates into the pale sorrow of Good Friday, but is then rebuilt into a purer, kinetic joy on Easter morning. There is no other song on no other day which can evoke the same tingling elation as the strong, resounding organ in "Christ the Lord is Risen Today" on Easter morning.
I have many Christian friends who are cynical about holidays, sarcastically alluding to the Pagan origins, or remarking that Christians should celebrate these events every Sunday, or daily, not just once a year. I don't necessarily disagree with their criticisms. But I still love holidays, and most everything that comes with them, religious or secular, profound or superficial. Special dishes reserved only for that particular celebration. Reunion of family and ignition of a kindred spirit. While I do not worship nature, the arrival of Spring is also indivisible from my joy of Easter morning.
I alluded to the commercialization of Easter. Oddly, I feel a similar aversion to the inverse effect. The complete and sanctimonious erasure of the secular, the relabeling as "Resurrection Sunday", the rallying cry "Jesus Is The Reason for the Season". While I can respect and echo the concern that the Event Fundamental to My Faith be overshadowed or sullied, I'm so fond of the secular tradition that I just can't annihilate it altogether. And I bristle at the implication that this makes me any less of a Good Christian.
So I suppose I'm a walking contradiction.
But is the whole celebration a limited set, with complete Religious Tradition and Secular Materialism as the upper and lower bounds? Am I deluding myself to believe that I can, clear-conscience, maintain a reasonable blend and balance somewhere inbetween? As if the ends of the spectrum were rather colors in a palette, that I could blend and balance to create something more beautiful than the two apart?
As I observe my favorite holiday being overrun with Bigger and More Stuff - going the way of Christmas - I wonder if I should reassess my plans to feed my son the same lies I was fed. Because, regardless of how I justify it to myself, they ARE in fact, lies. Or is "lie" just word-play, semantics? Should I also discard anything that isn't pure, cold fact? The stories and imaginations of my youth?
"Tell me one last thing," said Harry, "Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?"
"Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?"