Easter for Heathens: Religious Holidays When You're Not Religious

Apple Blossom Tree
Yesterday was Easter, which also happened to coincide with Passover -- two of the highest of Holy Days in Judeo-Christian traditions.  For many, these days hold extreme relevance, for others, they are another day on the calendar.  For me, well, it's complicated.

I was raised Catholic.  Irish-Catholic.  Parochial school education, Church every Sunday, Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, fish on Fridays, two aunts who were nuns Catholic.  Hard.  Core.  Catholic.

Mary Tyler Dad was raised outside religion.  Jewish father, Christian mother, 1970s progressive New England parenting.  Outside religion, indeed.

Together, we are not religious.  You've heard the phrase, "There are no atheists in a fox hole?"  Yeah, well, Mary Tyler Dad and I sort of set up camp in the closest thing I could imagine a fox hole feels like, our Donna's cancer diagnosis.  We spent over two years in that fox hole.  I came to believe that if you haven't found Jesus Christ when your daughter is dying of cancer, well then, you're probably not going to find Him.   And that's okay.

I capitalize Him intentionally, because while I am not religious, I respect and appreciate those that are.  I never aim to antagonize others with my lack of belief.  On the contrary, I completely respect those with religion and faith. Sometimes I think my life would be easier if I did believe in one thing or another.

But that's neither here nor there.  This is not intended to be a defense of atheism or agnosticism or faith.  What I want to consider is this idea of raising children without religion in a religious culture, specifically, how in the H-E-double hockey sticks (respectful, see?) do you explain religious holidays to a child when his family does not subscribe to a religion?

There is no easy answer.  What works for me may or may not work for you, which, oddly, is a bit like religion itself, isn't it?

Easter Bunny

Let's talk about the Easter Bunny.  For three year old Mary Tyler Son, the Easter Bunny is where it's at.  He is a big fan.  Last week I asked him what he thought Easter was about.  "The Easter Bunny bringing me chocolate!"  Yes, his reply was about what one would expect from a toddler boy.  Chocolate and treats.  Of course.  And equally unsurprising is that chocolate and treats were just about my favorite thing about Easter growing up, too, despite my very religious upbringing.  Kids are kids.  Chocolate and treats are good and fun and yummy and special.  And for a three year old, chocolate trumps most anything else.

Knowing that in the absence of faith, I would not be providing a religious explanation of Easter, I tried to broaden young Mary Tyler Son's perspective a bit in talking about Easter being a celebration of Spring, and more specifically, the return of life and growth after a long, cold winter.  Yeah, my three year old boy wasn't too interested in that, preferring the treat bearing bunny with his basket of goodies.  And you know what?  That's okay.  Mary Tyler Son is three.  He is allowed to fixate on sweet treats a few times a year.

As his parent, what's important to me is  that in addition to this annual sugar rush on a Sunday morning courtesy of a fictional bunny, is the intentional and structured teaching of the appreciation of life, of the return to life, of the cycle of life that Spring confirms.

Egg Dyeing

One way to do this, I learned this week, was the coloring of eggs.  Dyeing eggs was never on my radar.  My Mom never did it and quite honestly, it seemed a bother.  I mean, seriously?  Willingly introducing your toddler son to sloshing glasses of dye?  Are you kidding me?  And then arming that kid with eggs to fling in those sloshing glasses at will?  Well, I could not have been more wrong.  What better symbol of life than the egg?  It's where we all started.  Each and every one of us.  And the wonder of taking something so basic as the egg and submerging it until it reveals itself in all its Easter glory -- bright and lovely and colorful and wondrous.  Lesson learned -- life can be messy, but so amazing, too.  (Thanks, Grandma.)

Another way to convey this is on a simple walk to the park.  We took a few long walks this past week and had some opportunities to see new growth in all its glory.  The Spring light is amazing -- clear, fresh, intense, vibrant, bright. The color of the sky is different in April and May than it is in January or July. The light and changing green on the trees is more brilliant on that first day you look up from your winter stupor and realize that, yes, those green things on the branches are leaves that have indeed returned.  The four hundredth time you see those same leaves in August, I guarantee, you won't even notice them.

Spring is a beautiful and profound and sacred return.  It is confirmation that light and warmth follow cold and dark.  Always.  Spring is our annual reward and promise as human beings that things do, in fact, get better, even in nature.  As a family who has buried one of our children, this promised and expected annual return to life and growth and hope is so very needed.  It's why we planted tulips and daffodils and hyacinth and iris bulbs at Donna's grave.  Even though, no doubt, the deer will eat them before I see them, the reality of that brilliant growth at the physical marker of Donna's death is necessary and provides comfort.

Crocus

A facebook friend of mine, educated as a linguist (yes, I am blessed with amazing facebook friends; you can check out her super cool blog here), posted this yesterday:

Easter: from the Old English Easterdæg (meaning 'Easter Day'), named for a Germanic goddess of fertility and spring. Her name (probably Austron, thought we have no written example) in turn indicates the celebration of the spring equinox, from the Proto-Indo-European *aus-, *austra- 'to shine, sunrise, dawn'. Ultimately related to 'east.' Early Christians in England adopted the pagan goddess's name and many of the practices surrounding her celebration, and grafted them onto the Mass of the Resurrection. 

Most other West Germanic languages -- and Middle English -- use(d) a derivation of Latin/Greek Pascha, from Aramaic Pasha, related to Hebrew Pesah or Pesach, 'to pass over.'

So, looks like this heathen in is good company.  If the celebration of Spring was good enough for ancient cultures, it's good enough for my family.

Long story short, if I am doing my mothering job properly, Mary Tyler Son will some day come to recognize and appreciate the glory of Spring himself.  He will teach his own children to love the light, trust the warmth, and plant those bulbs.  He will know that life is universal and that its cyclical nature is confirmation of something to be celebrated.

Maybe even with chocolate from a bunny.

Tulip, Lilacs, Eggs

 

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  • OK, I love all your posts, but this one was wonderful on many levels. First off, as an atheist, I really enjoyed your gentle outing. Perhaps you've done this before and I missed it? And second, the appreciation for spring! What is there not to love about spring?? As someone who loves heat, spring to me is the promise that I will be warm for several months to come. I live in Florida, so I don't get the same feeling of bare trees becoming green, but after the pollen is washed away by spring rains, I am left with the most enjoyable time of the year. Growth. Lush greenery. Flowers! Enjoy your spring, and I am glad you had a happy Oestre! ;-)

  • In reply to annie:

    Hi, Annie! You flatter me with your kind words. Thank you for reading and commenting. Isn't Spring glorious? Bar none, my absolute favorite time of the year. On my wedding dress I had an ee cummings line embroidered along the hem, "Always it is Springtime, everyone's in love, and flowers pick themselves." And, of course, it was a Spring wedding. Celebrating its return feels important to me.

    That said, I have too much Catholic in me to call myself an atheist. I seriously can't do it. Guilt, fear, emptiness. Losing Donna alone means that I always need to hold out hope for some remote possibility we could meet again. Over the years, I've gained comfort with being agnostic. My dear Catholic mother once told me that once a Catholic, always a Catholic, because of the cultural component of the religion. I agree with her now.

    So grateful for your reading! Thanks. MTM.

  • Just in case you aren't already familiar with Dale McGowan, I think you might enjoy his writings: http://parentingbeyondbelief.com/blog/

  • In reply to Kjcwright:

    Thanks for the tip, kjcwright, and thanks for reading. MTM.

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    Oh.....it's like you wrote this just for me. I grew up a VERY reformed Jew, who married a non-religious, non-Jew. My mother, however, wasn't reformed enough to every give us anything remotely related to Easter, and, as a matter of fact, when all the neighbors were rejoicing in chocolate bunnies and jellybeans, we were eating Matzoh and horseradish (yeah, back then, I was bitter). So now that I have children, we go to my in laws for Easter. For years it has really bothered me that such a sacred day for some is treated as a chocolate Saturnalia by my kids. And to top it off, I, the Jew, have consistently been relegated to making the Easter baskets. I have always felt distaste that this sacred day has been SO paganized and was thinking this morning about how to present this day to my children in a way that would make it more meaningful, but not necessarily meaningful in a religious way. So thank you MTM, this very post is why I continue to adore you.

  • In reply to Rachel Henry:

    I love your comment, Rachel, and kraft och omtanke to you for all those Easter baskets!

    Full disclosure, I live in a very Orthodox Jewish neighborhood. On Easter, we join forces with our friends and throw a two-family egg hunt for our kids. It is a blast to see them so excited and in their Easter finery. I love it. But yesterday I felt just terrible for the two or three Orthodox families who walked past us in the midst of our revery. I always completely assume they find this ritual awful and distasteful. Alternately, it kind of amuses me as no one has a clue what any of us are truly and honestly thinking.

    I go to the joy. It's what I do. And I hope I always do. Thanks for your kind words. Happy Spring! MTM.

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    In reply to Mary Tyler Mom:

    Hi Ladies!
    One of my favorite things to do is invite the atheist/culturally Jewish neighborhood friends over for an Easter egg hunt (one family we are good friends with). We laugh at how ironic it is and then the kids eat all the candy and count their change. Then our family heads for Church and celebrates Jesus' resurrection. I love it when we can have the best of both worlds and respect people where they are and they respect us where we are and we just share love and friendship. One year we even had Seder with them (when their family was visiting). It was educating. Simply loving each other as we have been taught, either by our faith or our families. Love you MTM!

  • In reply to Vickie Sylvain:

    I wish everyone played as nicely as you, Vickie. Thanks for reading and commenting. MTM.

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    My husband is an Athiest and I am no religion. For us the holidays have become a time to celebrate family and love. My father (a devout Catholic) bought me the "Parenting Beyond Belief" book and it offers perspectives on how to "be" without Him. I don't know if you need that book because it sounds like you've worked a lot out. Your post is beautiful. - just keep swimming

  • In reply to Marian Stimson:

    Just read your great Easter post, Marian. Loved it and was SO relieved we wrote about completely different things. When I saw you posted it this morning after I had put out a teaser on my personal Facebook wall I got nervous they would be similar. Committed to not reading yours until mine was written.

    You are one lucky lady! MTM.

  • The "spring has sprung" thing is not working very well with my religiously neutral 3 year old boy here in San Diego. His favorite aunt got him a Berenstain Bears "The true Easter eggs" book, whose message includes thinking less about the chocolate bunnies and more about crocuses gallantly peeping through the snow to welcome spring. My son's reaction: "Mama that's up at Mammoth (Mammoth Lakes, where there is snow and where he just learned to ski). Here we LOVE the big chocolate bunnies!"

    Yet my son is a gardener, an avid gardener, who has worked hard with his Dad to build a garden at his preschool. So I think, at this age, the key is to let them be - and the influences sink in, slowly and inevitably. MTS is assimilating all that you are exposing him to - and oh yes, Mama and son getting together to dye eggs is absolutely the best!!

  • In reply to jiyer:

    That, my friend, is the price you pay for living in the finest climate in the U S of A! Actually, I have heard from a few folks in warm climates that don't see the seasons change as we do here in Chicago. For you, I got nothin'.

    Just kidding. For you, I have the recognition that those in warm climates will need to seek out alternate means to explain the life cycle. Is there a butterfly sanctuary near you? That is a PERFECT analogy for rebirth and transformation. Also, I might suggest a trip to Mammoth in Spring some year when your kid is old enough to digest and remember it.

    Thanks for reading and commenting, as always. MTM.

  • In reply to Mary Tyler Mom:

    Right on, MTM. We've done metamorphosis with caterpillars as well as ladybug larvae in our home and in our backyard...and the next stop is indeed the local butterfly sanctuary! My son looks for growth and change avidly - he just doesn't necessarily think of Nature's wonders when a big chocolate bunny is staring him in the face :)

  • In reply to jiyer:

    I explained the bunny to MTS as a symbol of Spring -- bunnies hopping around = Spring and the return to warmth. The treats in the baskets are a symbol of all the treats of nature. Too much? Probably. Oh well.

  • In reply to Mary Tyler Mom:

    Great ideas that I will copy next year, for sure

  • Lovely.
    We aren't religious in our home either, but some of the relatives on other sides of the family are very christian, and it's hard to strike a balance, when I don't really want Lucas to be christian. I want him to know about christianity, but as I am more pagan/panthiest, I'd prefer if he were the same. His bio-father is more of a chursh-goer and prayer-sayer, and I know it confuses Lucas when he is forced to go to church and say grace on the rare occasion when he does visit his father.
    Chris's boys are also being raised mostly non-religious, but their grandparents are very christian, so when they visit with them, they say grace and such.
    Chris and I talked a bit about what to celebrate and how to explain it to the kids, and we basically just defaulted to Easter this year because we weren't sure how to go about things.
    Personally, I'd prefer a Vernal Equinox/ Ostara celebration. The only problem with that is the timing of it. The Equinox/Ostara is before Easter. It might confuse the kids. Of course, it might not. We're probably just over-thinking it as usual.

    Again, great post. I'm glad you had a lovely experience with your little man. xoxo

  • In reply to kantal113:

    Do what feels right. If the Vernal Equinox celebration feels right, make it happen. Then teach the kids about it and about how others might not recognize it, and what other kids might recognize.

    I think kids suss out what is real and sincere and what is not. Make something sincere for them and they'll surely make fun of you in later years, but I bet they enjoy the heck out of it, too, and feel pretty special about it.

    Parenting is hard. xox. MTM.

  • In reply to kantal113:

    I'm Pagan (going on 14 years now) but was raised Pentecostal Christian by a mother who was raised Old Order Mennonite (my dad was raised Salvation Army Christian). I had a similar bitter epiphany - if during & (all the long years after) after a very violent sexual assault, I hadn't found Christ, I probably never was going to. So what else was out there?. I did some serious research in the year directly afterwards as an agnostic. I went to Catholic Masses (I would still LOVE to attend a full Latin Mass. I was a choir geek in high school and I actually own two different Latin/English dictionaries) and Ukrainian Orthodox services and then for my birthday my friend got me a copy of Starhawk's Spiral Dance and I had an Eureka moment and realized that I had a Goddess shaped hole in my heart. My daughter's sperm onor, my ex husband, also identifies as Pagan. He was an absentee father from the get-go so she and I ended up living with my parents (I was on bedrest that last week of pregnancy with pre-eclampsia and then it took me, my mom and 2 different lactation consultants a week and a half to get the bugs worked out of breastfeeding). My very Christian parents. My Goddess-worshipping mother-in-law got me http://www.amazon.com/Parenting-Revised-Edition-Kristin-Madden/dp/1892718529/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1334083623&sr=8-1 as present the Mother's Day I was pregnant and I found it helpful. Kiddo's first winter she attended a Yule ritual (nursing or asleep most of the time, often nursing in her sleep) and also got to 'open' presents a few times over the next few days with all the Christian extended family. I am also totally okay with being a Pagan who likes singing Christmas carols and decorating trees (since the first of my three miscarriages I started collecting angel tree ornaments as a way of keeping my angels' memories alive. My first tattoo is also for them). Why not celebrate both Ostara and Easter with the kids, it'll be both educational and memorable at once.

    My daughter is Christian and it's partly because the only three hours a week I got all to myself was sending her off to church with my parents once a week. Daddy was off in a submarine and my parents both worked full time so most of the day I was lucky to pee by myself let alone shower. Those first few weeks of her life (before I realized that by cosleeping, I didn't have to wake up and get out of bed to nurse her. Score!) I was so zonked that all I did on those Sundays by myself was fall into bed and pass out. If she's happy as a Christian and it provides comfort through her life than I'm happy for her. In the meantime, it is occasionally awkward when she wants to sing "Jesus songs" with me and I have to explain that mummy doesn't know any "Jesus songs" but I do have most of Raffi memorized and some of his songs like "Mr Sun" would be fun to sing at an Ostara celebration.... ;)

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    As a Christian I really appreciate this post. Ive often wondered how non-believers explain religious holidays to their children, while hoping they didnt explain in a negative way. I love how you explain it. Fantastic. Thank you!

  • In reply to Heidi33:

    Couldn't agree more, Heidi.

    To you and to anyone else, on the flip side I'd be curious to know how you explain non-believers to your children.

  • In reply to Jimmy Greenfield:

    Great question, Jimmy! Part of the reason for the title is that I always feel like a heathen around people of faith. I know I'm a good person, but it is so easy to make assumptions about others who are different than ourselves.

  • In reply to Heidi33:

    Thanks for reading and commenting, Heidi. You gots to know that someone will always be negative about you, no matter who or what you are. Christopher Hitchens proved that with Mother Theresa.

    That said, I have respect for people of faith, especially when they live that faith rather than just pay it lip service. It's a hard thing to do, and even harder to teach our children.

    Again, thanks for keeping me company here. MTM.

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    This is a hard subject. I wanted to find books about how to raise ethical and moral people without holding a deity over their head. All I found were books justifying the absence of faith. I think maybe you could write that book. <3

  • That is a great question, Hausfrau. I wonder about that a lot myself. Mary Tyler Dad, raised without religion, is honestly the best human being I know: honest, generous, fair, loving, kind, aware, sensitive, and on and on. His parents did something right and they did it withut religion. That gives me total faith that it is possible. Challenging, but possible.

    One thing I think about is community. Kids need to learn to be part of something bigger than themselves and their family. I had that through our parish and school. It was more challenging for my husband's parents. They were very involved in their school community and had a lot of close service ties through that. As Mary Tyler Dad grows up, we will need to create that. Most likely, a lot will come from our charity and doing Good Things in Donna's name.

    Long story short, I don't think a book is always necessary. Trust your gut. Find a community you can contribute to. Model what you want your kids to be and do. Hope for the best.

    Thanks for reading and commenting! MTM.

  • In reply to Mary Tyler Mom:

    Mary Tyler DAD is all grown up, isn't he? I assume it is Mary Tyler SON that needs to grow? Just me adding a silly comment despite knowing what you meant :)

  • In reply to jiyer:

    Oops!

  • I love this post, MTM! I was in a similar, albeit less articulate, mood myself after Easter.

    We differ though, because I do give the religious explanation to our kids. I feel like it's part of the culture. "Christians believe baby Jesus grew up, did good things, died and then came back. People don't really come back after they die, though".

    It got a little awkward around Christmas when my three-year-old got obsessed with baby Jesus and kept wanting to hear the manger story over and over. I know the talking points, but this was not something I was trying to drill into her by any means.

    Parenting is such a lesson some times.

  • Why thank you, Miss Jenna. Parenting is a lesson, almost all of the time. I am definitely still learning. MTM.

  • Okayyyyy....just cannot put in my 2 cents worth. I LOVED this....every single word. I was raised a Reform Jew...but always spent Easter with my Dad and stepmom (who was Catholic) and loved ALL of it. To me, the celebration of Spring, new beginnings, and new life is where it's at. I spent this past Friday and Saturday nights at Passover Seders and made a ham and Easter cookies on Sunday! My 46th B-Earthday is April 22nd and although my family is having a rough time right now, I will continue to celebrate. Celebrate what? Anything I can. I will forever CHOOSE HOPE and to live til I die. (Kudos Miss Donna <3) Happy Spring to you and your family.

    Love,
    Amy

  • In reply to Amy Cassman:

    Thank you, Amy! You are such a great reader and supporter.

    Did you by any chance see Jon Stewart last night? He did the funniest thing that sent tears of laughter down my cheeks. "Faith/Off: Easter v. Passover." Check it out on hulu. So incredibly funny. Stewart maintains that the Jews need to step it up a notch in the kid-friendly religious holidays. So damn funny.

    As always, thanks for keeping me company. MTM.

  • *cannot NOT* put in my 2 cents worth~

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    This was beautiful, and fully mirrors my own treatment of Easter, spring, and all the seasonal holidays. I'm amazed and grateful to find this in a major newspaper.

    One week two respected and beloved columnists in my own Virginia paper both casually dropped shocking insults toward nontheists. One, a garden columnist, really stung with the sadly popular spinoff crack "There are no atheists in a garden." Having a very extensive garden that I used for teaching about landscaping for wildlife, I wrote a very kind letter inviting them both to visit an atheist's garden. Neither responded. Incredibly, the politicocultural columnist promptly wrote a full column blasting the nontheist who'd dared write to him to object and attacking all nontheists. Let's hope you're a harbinger of a spring of tolerance toward nontheists. Many thanks to you and the Tribune!

  • In reply to Eileen R:

    Thanks for reading, Eileen. What you describe sounds dreadfully disrespectful. I've never written about religion before, as I've always embraced the "no politics/no religion" rule in my blog. I am amazed at the positive responses I've received.

    I have to say, " . . . hope you're a harbinger of a spring of tolerance," makes me jealous that you wrote that instead of me. Beautiful imagery.

    Hope I've hooked you with this one and that you keep reading. MTM.

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    Have to comment really bad because the ad at the bottom of the article says Earn a Bible degree...such bad ad placement. Anyhoo, being a non-churchgoing believer in Jesus as the messenger, but not a believer in going to church and pretending I am someone I am not I was drawn to this article. Also there is a place in Chicago/Skokie called the "Ethical Humanist Society," it is the place for people like me bringing up a child. They have a Sunday school class called "The Golden Rule Class," it teaches values and empathy that I learned in Sunday school myself as a child...this is different though it brings together so many children of diverse backgrounds and teaches them together without religious dogma. Also I don't understand how anyone could call themselves an antheist because it stands for believing that there is no deities beyond what our senses can grasp which is arrogant in my opinion. Agnostic is a more objective way of looking at it saying that there may or maynot be a deity beyond what we can sense with our limited human capacity. But that is just my opinion and I have respect for others opinions also that is what makes us a true democrasy.

  • In reply to Sandra Childs:

    I feel the need to clarify some terms used in your post.
    Agnosticism and atheism are not mutually exclusive terms. Atheism / theism centers on belief. A theist has a belief in a god, or gods, whereas an atheist simply lacks those beliefs. Being an atheist does not mean that one is asserting that there is no god. Agnosticism / gnosticism centers on knowledge. An agnostic theist would be one who doesn't claim to have absolute knowledge of a god, yet believes that one exists. An agnostic atheist would be one who doesn't claim to have absolute knowledge that there is no god, yet doesn't believe that one exists or sees no reason to believe that one exists. Gnostic theists claim to have knowledge that a god exists and naturally believe that one exists. Gnostic atheists claim to have knowledge that gods do not exist and naturally lack a belief in gods.
    That being said, it would behoove you to refrain from labeling people as arrogant simply because you don’t understand the possible nuances of a person's position.

  • In reply to StoneE4:

    Honest question, StoneE4: What is someone like myself known as? I think of myself as agnostic, but don't fit the definition you provide. Basically, I believe that one can neither prove nor disprove the existence of a higher power or God.

    I would appreciate a response -- you definitely get the nuances. Thank you. MTM.

  • In reply to Mary Tyler Mom:

    Well, I would definitely say that you are agnostic because you don't proclaim to have knowledge of a god's existence or nonexistence.
    As to whether you are an agnostic atheist or an agnostic theist, ask the question, “Do I believe in a god?”
    If the answer is yes, you are an agnostic theist. If the answer is no, you are an agnostic atheist.

  • In reply to StoneE4:

    Okay, so I believe in the possibility of a God existing. I think it is possible, just as I believe the inverse, that it is possible that a God does not exist. I feel like no one on this earth knows with any certainty. They believe they know, but that belief is based on faith.

    Make sense? Also, thanks for the response. Fascinating thing, this Internet, that allows this discourse amongst strangers. MTM.

  • In reply to Mary Tyler Mom:

    I agree... I think that anyone who claims to be a gnostic atheist, or a gnostic theist, is either not being honest or they are the victim of delusion.

    Stripped to its simplest form, remember that...
    -Agnosticism / gnosticism has to do with knowledge.
    Knowledge example - “I know, with certainty, that I have a father.”*

    -Atheism / theism has to do with belief.
    Belief example - “I believe that George Washington would have agreed with President ‘X’ on his foreign policy.”

    *Of course that example hinges on the idea that one can have absolute certainty about anything, but that’s a philosophical discussion I don’t even bother to enter in to.

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    Also wanted to add that my heart goes out to you for your daughter. I have taken religion and philosophy classes in college and a Jewish professor of an ethics class drilled into me the importance of sacramentalization (hoped I spelled it right)...it is a need of the soul that is separate of your ego. She says it is in the little things we do such as make special food when our good friends come over. It is also in those little things we do on special occasions that we do such as color eggs together. Also putting a special place up in our home that is sacred that holds the photos and memories of our beloved departed and sacramentalizing (that word from my professor again) or some would say honor also ...but the point is to make sacred that little area where the photos are -- place fresh flowers, etc. I think knowing this helped me out a lot with loss that I went through in my life.
    I hope it will be of help for others, especially those who don't participate in an established church.

  • In reply to Sandra Childs:

    Thank you for your comments, Sandra, and for reading.

    As I wrote about, I grew up Catholic, so the idea of sacraments and that act is familiar to me. We have worked to find ways to keep our daughter present in our home and in our lives.

    Hope you stick around. MTM.

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    This is my first time reading your posts, and I was pleasantly surprised. When I read the title of this post, I was amused by the irony of "Easter for Heathens", as Easter was originally a pagan/heathen holiday. All the symbolism of the bunnies, eggs, and spring flowers go back to the pagan holiday of Ostara. The Roman Catholic Church used syncretism to convert pagans. The "Christian" holidays of Easter, Christmas, Candlemas, and a few others are pagan holidays. For the non-religious, I think celebrating spring is an excellent idea. Of course, I could be a bit biased as I'm Wiccan. Thank you for the great blog.

  • Welcome, Heather. The title was intentional. 'Heathen' often has a negative connotation and I liked the idea of such a joyful post attached to a provocative title for one who does not subscribe to religion or faith.

    Hope you keep reading what I write. MTM.

  • Good post, MTM.
    I don't find it as necessary as you do to walk on eggshells concerning people's religious beliefs. But, I certainly can appreciate your sentiments on spring and I admire how you have impressed that on to your child.
    Your post is a perfect example of how the non religious can feel the same joy, awe, love, and wonder that religious people do, while not participating in the dogma of religion. As an atheist, I'm often confronted by people claiming that I must not “believe in anything,” or that “no joy can be found in life without a belief in god.” Your post clearly shows that those two assertions are absolutely false. You have expressed secular joy and appreciation of life associated with a particular season of the year in a much more eloquent way than I could have. I’m pretty sure I’ll be directing people to your post the next time someone claims that my atheism doesn’t allow me to enjoy or appreciate life.

    Thank you for your post.

  • In reply to StoneE4:

    Thank you, StoneE4, for reading and commenting. And for your previous reply to another commenter. I love the respect you demonstrate.

    I have absolutely heard the vague sense of shame people attach to both atheists and agnostics (see my previous question above, please). And I twinge around labels like, "non-believer." I do believe in quite a few things. I believe in beauty and joy and hope and wonder and none of that has any relationship to a religion or higher power for me.

    Those things are as necessary to me as oxygen and light and food. Those things are what help me get out of the bed in the morning and not be consumed by grief. A wise friend and fellow griever told me soon after Donna's death, "Go to the joy." I try to practice that daily. It helps.

    I welcome any future readers you send my way, and hope you keep reading yourself. You might be interested in my "Donna's Cancer Story" found above or in the right rail. It details not only my daughter's cancer treatment, but how one can get through that without the assistance of faith or religion.

    Many thanks and hope you keep me company again sometime. MTM.

  • Jim Gaffigan, who was raised Catholic, has a very good routine on Easter and why we celebrate the death and resurrection of the Messiah with a bunny and dyed eggs.

    He also says that some drunk must have thought of bringing a dead tree into the house and decorating it as a part of the celebration of the birth of the Messiah.

  • In reply to ckfred:

    You had me with Jim Gaffigan. Thanks for reading and commenting, ckfred. And stick around, as I plan to do a Christmas version of this in December. MTM.

  • a very refreshing and interesting post. isn't it interesting how many of the christian holidays correspond to dates on the pagan calendar? things that make you go hmmm...

    now how're you gonna explain the tooth fairy...

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