Why a month for Christmas and a week for Easter?

Easter Bunny at Christmas cartoon 1This year the official Christmas season is the shortest it ever gets. My wife Shannon says it begins immediately after Thanksgiving, although many stores seem to think Christmas begins right after Labor Day.

Since Thanksgiving was on November 28 this year (the 4th Thursday of November), the period between the two holidays is a short as it gets this year.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas.  But a question comes to mind even in the midst of this abridged holiday season.

Why do we celebrate Christmas for a month and Easter for a week? Is Jesus’ birth four times more important than his death?  I could be wrong here, but theologically, I think his death is more fundamental to my faith. Yes, I realize Jesus couldn’t die unless he was first born, but it wasn’t his birth that paid the price for our sins. That would be his death.

To be precise, for Easter, we don’t just celebrate his death, we also celebrating his resurrection. So, Easter celebrations essentially commemorate the two most important events in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.

(Another question, how do we go from Friday afternoon (cross) to Sunday morning (empty grave) and come up with three days? That sounds like a day and half to me. I may need to revisit this question in 3 months.)

So, perhaps we should make Christmas not just a celebration of his birth, but also a celebration of his life? Just as we celebrate two things for Easter, we could celebrate two things for Christmas. Personally, Jesus’ life is more important to my faith that his birth. (Although, it is pretty amazing that Baby Jesus didn’t cry.)  During his life he healed, he taught, he forgave, he prayed, he provided food and wine, he showed compassion. Those are impressive. Celebration-worthy.

As a baby he was given gifts by the five wise men (Scripture never says there were three guys, just three gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh-I think five guys went in for 3 gifts, which would make more sense in their communal culture), but receiving gifts isn’t that impressive. Even I can do that. (Yes, I haven’t forgotten about Baby Jesus’ lack of crying, which is still impressive.) Everyone says I’m better at receiving gifts than giving gifts.

If Jesus’ birth is so important, why do Mark and John skip it? Half the Gospels omit his birth narrative completely. They don’t skip his life, but go into great detail talking about what he did during his ministry here on earth. But we decide to devote a month of our holiday calendar to celebrate his birth. Doesn’t that seem a bit off to you? So, let’s just expand our Christmas celebrations to include recollections of Jesus’ life on earth as he was God-incarnate, word-made flesh, Immanuel, God-with-us.

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7 comments

  1. I don’t know if one week for Easter is fair… what about Lent? On a more cynical note — I’m sure that Easter would be just as big a deal as Christmas if department stores could figure out how to market it.

  2. Your post asks about our Christmas/Easter celebrations in a secular sense, of course, but it’s worth noting that the church calendar (especially for those in liturgical traditions that *use* the church calendar, in any event) does indeed give more time to Easter (that is, if Lent is considered to be the analogue to Christmas’ Advent).

  3. Mark, Dan, Yes, there is Lent (good point), but I’d be curious as to what percentage of Christians celebrate Lent in a serious way. It doesn’t come close to how Christmas is celebrated. When do they start playing Lent/Easter music? Right after Valentines’ Day?

  4. The Christmas season is twelve days (Advent doesn’t count). The Easter season last fifty days (not counting Lent). Just sayin’.

    1. Matt, you must live in an alternate universe. Technically, you may be right, but practically that doesn’t happen. Most of the churches I’ve been a part of celebrate Christmas for a month, and Easter for a week (Baptist, EV Free, Presbyterian, Vineyard, Anglican, non-denominational). Just sayin’.

  5. You must be hanging with those snake belly low C of E evangelicals! Of course a good half of the world’s Christians are Roman Catholic so…

    I’m not just being contrarian though. It is interesting that a lot of Christians will be all in when it comes to Christmas and Easter, but than suddenly become critical and dismissive when you try to introduce the rest of the Church calender. The puritans had a similar contempt for Christmas which they denounced as “residual Papist idolatry.” They didn’t have much use for Easter either. I notice a growing interest among evangelicals in observing lent and advent, but also a lot of “romophopbia.” How about the Asension? How about Pentecost? I guess God the Spirit doesn’t rate. Your post raises an interesting question. Why is that the way the Church marks time seems to have more in common with the wider culture than the faith which was handed down to us? Dan hit the nail on the head. We make a bigger deal over deal over Christmas because the department stores do. We follow their lead.

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