From the Archives: Why Isn’t Easter Marketable? By Anjeanette LeBoeuf

This as originally posted on March 25, 2018.

A few months ago, a friend and I were having one of our many hundreds of random conversations when we started to talk about the differences in the commercialization of the two major Christian holidays: Christmas and Easter. We started really getting invested it this question and what factors lead to Christmas become the juggernaut that it currently is.

Both holidays are given official status. Christmas is a designated federal holiday due to it being permanently celebrated in the Western Christian community on December 25th. Whereas Easter shifts due to seasonal and lunar changes but is always celebrated on a Sunday, meaning it did not need to be given a designated status as Sundays are recognized by the State as a non-work day. Schools across the globe used to call it Christmas and Easter breaks. In the last 10 years, all schools have adopted the politically correct terms of Winter and Spring Breaks. Yet, they still function around the religious observances.

Christmas, it seems comes more and more early in shops. Decorations, candy, gifts, and marketing can be seen as early as September. Christmas music can start to play on radio stations and coffee houses as soon as early November.

The Christmas music industry has truly excelled. Each new year, sees a new artist releasing an album of their versions of ‘classic’ Yule time songs. Even artists who have released albums years earlier will find their CDs flying off the shelf year after year come November 15 or so. And every occasionally, you will hear a song dedicated to Hanukah but from November until January 6 give or take a few days, the airways are filled with holiday music, the bulk of which is NOT generic wintery, non-religious tunes.

holiday radio

Yet when Spring comes around, the Lenten season descends and no Easter songs fill the airways, no songs of the soul preparing during the Lenten season, no songs talking about the life and death of Jesus, or the Passover celebration. Shoot, not even a song about the pagan Easter Bunny can be heard. The stores will have decorations and aisles for Easter candy- they will even have a small corner to Passover but not compared to the space devoted for Easter. Heaven forbid stores not capitalize on a holiday – religious or secular.

easter egg

But what happened to make Christmas the dominant holiday? What made it socially and secularly acceptable to celebrate on such a large scale? Is it because of the marketing strategy of Coca Cola in introducing a secular version of St. Nicholas as Santa Clause that opened the door? Was it because of literature popularizing traditions and the spirit of the winter season that rooted itself with the Christian celebration of Jesus’s birth? Does it have to do with the time of season?

nativity

And yes, both Christmas and Easter have incorporated pagan festival and worship elements. It wasn’t until 700 years after Jesus died, that Christians started to celebrate the holiday of “Christmas” (that resembles a shadow of how Christians celebrate it today) as well as the fact that Pope Julius I declared December 25th (in 345 CE) as the designated day. Christmas didn’t become an American federal holiday until 1870 which piggybacked upon the growing traditions illustrated in Charles Dicken’s most famous tome, A Christmas Carol.

christmas carol

200 years earlier, Easter had already become rooted into the Christian lexicon. Easter became a celebrated Christian holiday after Emperor Hadrian crushed the Bar Kokhba revolt in 132 CE. So, it was Easter that was the first official Christian recognized holiday. Many Christians across denominations will agree that it is Easter that is the most important Christian holiday. The importance and celebration shouldn’t be on the fact that Jesus was born but that He died for people’s sins, that he became the “Pascal Lamb.” (fulfilling the Old Testament tradition found in the Passover celebration). And I wonder if it is this reason that Easter has not gained the traction that Christmas has had globally.

easter-vs-christmas-2

Christmas, the “Holiday Season,’ the Winter Solstice carries a lot. There are a lot of ways that one can talk about Christmas without talking about the Christian roots. There are countless movies out there that talk about the “Christmas spirit” centered on love, family, honesty – nothing to do with Mary giving birth in a manager. I even wrote a FAR post a while back about the plethora of Christmas movies out there as well as the films which have focused on Easter. Yet, the movies and music that come out during the Easter season are more focused on Spring – nothing in resemblances to Easter. Stores have banked on the images of the Easter Bunny and of Spring but other industries have not been as successful. No radio station, not dedicated to playing Christian music will be as driven as they are for Christmas music. Hallmark Channel will have two whole months from November and December and one in July that are solely focused on Holiday movies. Their marketing strategy come Easter is “Spring Renewal,” not one Easter inspired film to be seen.

easter bunny

I challenge you to try and find a public, generic song that talks about Easter – a song that isn’t a Church hymn or about Spring. I would be colored surprised if there is one in existence. Yet I know at least 10 different songs that are not originally Church songs, that are based around the celebration of Jesus’s birth that are on the regular radio rotation. Something to think about as Easter is right around the corner.

BIO: Anjeanette LeBoeuf has recently traded in the sunny days of California for the ever changing seasons of the Midwest. Anjeanette is currently the World Religions Professor at Saint Louis University. She continues to be the Queer Advocate for the Western Region of the American Academy of Religion. She has also recently helped to set up and is the current Chair of the Disabilities Studies Unit for the Western Region. Her focuses are divided between South Asian religions and religion and popular culture. One of the main themes in Anjeanette’s work is seeking out representations of women and queer people in all forms of popular culture and how religion plays into them. She looks forward to exploring St. Louis in the coming months.  



Categories: General, holiday

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8 replies

  1. No matter what we say we are still a Christianized country – the problem here is that an authentic spiritual element is missing – commercialism is not only normalized but is a way to fill the spiritual hole where ‘god’ is not. Because Christianity reigns for most in name only it makes perfect sense to me that Easter has lost all meaning.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I remember reading this and enjoying it when you originally posted it. I think there is one Easter bunny song, “Here Comes Peter Cottontail.” I love your illustrations! Happy whatever-holiday-this-is and bright blessings!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. There is also Irving Berlin’s “Easter Parade” from the movie of the same name. Both Christmas and Easter are Christian holidays, but I suppose it is easier to generalize/secularize the gift-giving journing-to-get-together of Christmas than the death/resurrection of Easter. I can’t envision a secularized commercialism of Easter that would not be distasteful.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Contenta–you’re right! That’s a terrific movie with Fred and Judy all dressed up and strolling down the avenue. Irvine Berlin, who was born in Russia, wrote two of the greatest American holiday songs, “White Christmas” and “Easter Parade.” Hooray for holidays and movies!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Christmas has become a consumer-good marketing juggernaut because the marketing industry has exploited the Christian custom of gifts to the poor, extended to family and now to everyone.

    Easter is a message of suffering and sacrifice and recovery (resurrection) and is not inherently a marketing money-spinner, so it is ignored. We live in a fool’s paradise. When our society collapses, which it soon will as the result of nuclear war or climate calamity or environmental and biosphere collapse – or all three – then suffering, love and recovery will become meaningful to us again, as it was in the Middle Ages.

    Here in Australia Christmas is by no means ‘wintery’. The songs of snow, sleighs and robins sound ridiculous under the hot sun beating down. Easter is the time for re-birth and recovery – resurrection – as the land recovers from the hardships of the baking thirsty Summer. The birds are migrating northward for the winter and the whales are migrating north past Sydney to give birth in the warm waters of the Coral Sea. People flock to Eden to see them go past in convoy. You can identify the species from the shape of their steamy plumes. There are plaques at Pebble Beach showing the shape of the plume of each species.

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  6. The Eastern Orthodox Churches – Greek, Russian, Ukrainian – have beautiful Easter music and hymns. I recommend them to you. Those peoples know suffering, sacrifice and resurrection.

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