However, it hasn’t lost its religious identity like Christmas. According to a nation wide study conducted by the Barna Group, the majority of Americans identify Easter as a religious holiday. When asked to describe the holiday, common responses included, “a Christian holiday, a celebration of God or Jesus, a celebration of Passover, a holy day, or a special time for church attendance.”
Although many acknowledge the religious origins, only a minority (42% of Americans surveyed) was able to accurately identify it as the day of the resurrection of Christ. Further, only 2% said that they would describe Easter as the most important holiday of their faith, despite the church’s persistence on this matter.
For more statistics from the survey, refer to the chart below: 1
Some of the people I interviewed, although claiming to be religious, based their explanations of Easter on more secular traditions. Jackie Cosse, of Amherst College, describes the effect commercialization has had on the sacred aspect of Easter, stating, “Living in an American household obviously we went through the whole charade of the Easter bunny, but the holiday was really more about the superficialities, to us kids anyway, as opposed to the religion. Sure I went to Catholic school and learned about Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday, but even the masses on each of those days lost a little bit of their meaning; I think the kids in my family got more excited about the pretty new dresses they were going to wear, and the Easter egg hunts they got to embark on afterwards.” (For more information on Hispanic Easter traditions, click here.)
Easter has a dualistic nature, balancing the heavy industries of candy manufacturers, along with the Christian church and its most important holiday of the church season. The main deciding factor upon which the scale shifts is largely dependent upon what influence one’s cultural traditions has. Based upon my personal interviews, Greeks, and Polish people have more sacred Easter celebrations than Hispanics.
- © Barna Group 2010. February 7 – 10, 2010. ↩