Friday, March 29, 2013

Taking Easter Out of Easter Egg Hunts

"I just don't get it, Kid," said Karl. "How the hell do you take Easter out of an Easter egg hunt?"

Are we still talking about that thing in Seattle? I said.

"Yeah, $#@&! Seattle," growled Karl. "The blasted parks and rec department wants to be inclusive of everyone and so they take out the word Easter from their Easter egg hunt, and think that magically makes everything all better."

We were sitting in First Editions, our favorite literary-themed bar, watching a friend read from her novel-in-progress about Dizzy Gillespie's wife, Lorraine Willis Gillespie.

Well, you have to admit, having a Christian-only holiday celebration does leave out other people who might want to participate, I said.

"So let 'em participate. No one's stopping them." Karl plonked his beer mug on the bar. Our friend looked up, startled at the noise, but continued reading. She had gotten to the part where Dizzy had tried to cut Cab Calloway with a switchblade during a fight, and the audience was riveted.

We had actually been drifting in and out of this conversation for the past 30 minutes, and this was our third time around. The city of Edmonds, Washington, which is near Seattle, had removed the word "Easter" from their Easter egg hunt, and now just had an "egg hunt." In fact, they had been doing it for the past 13 years, but it was only this month that a bunch of people had gotten their robes in a twist about it.

Wouldn't you feel funny if you wanted to go to an event for Ramadan or Chanukah, and weren't of that faith? I asked. Wouldn't you feel out of place at a pancake breakfast fundraiser at a Jewish temple?

"Ah, but you forget, Kid. My first wife was Jewish, and so I've been to Chanukah and Yom Kippur and Passover," said Karl. "And I've fasted with friends on Ramadan. Did I feel funny? Maybe a little, but I still did it, because I wanted to support my friends and family, and understand their cultures a little better."

Yeah, yeah, nobody's as open-minded as you. But given that Easter is a Christian holiday, don't you think people from other faiths will assume that Easter isn't for them?

"Possibly. So why can't they just explain it in the title? Call it the 'Easter Egg Hunt for Everyone of All Faiths.'"

Or just call it 'Egg Hunt.'

"But who the hell hunts eggs for fun?"

Foxes?

"Be serious, Kid. We're talking about the dismantling of tradition and history. What's next, taking the 'thanks' out of Thanksgiving so we can appease the chronically ungrateful?" Karl waved down Kurt the bartender. "Kurt, a couple more Cole's porters, please."

What the hell do you care anyway? I said. You're agnostic.

"Well. . ." Karl paused and took a drink. I could hear the gears grinding as he thought about his answer. He finally sighed and set his beer down.

"If I had to be honest with myself, I'm being nostalgic. I remember when I was a little kid, about five or six, in Lansing, Michigan, and the city had an Easter egg hunt. I always got a little wicker basket stuffed with fake grass and lots of candy. And I loved hunting for eggs. My parents watched from the sides and I got to have a little adventure in the park."

So your resistance is really less about religion and more about you just miss being a little boy?

"Shut up, Kid." Karl turned away and tried not to be obvious about swiping at the corner of his eye. He turned back.

"Look, Easter is Easter, Christmas is Christmas. It's a fun, magical time for little kids, and I think we're sucking the magic out of it when a bunch of wooly-headed bureaucrats start telling everyone how to feel and what to believe.

"No one makes Muslims stop fasting on Ramadan, and no one makes the Jews call the Menorah 'holiday candles.' These are traditional religious practices that other people continue to follow without worrying about being forced to change to be inclusive. I think we should just show the same respect to all religions."

Yes, but the Easter egg originated in pagan times. It was a symbol of fertility and rebirth, and the Easter bunny was adopted as an additional symbol because of how quickly rabbits reproduce. It's not like Jesus had anything to do with the eggs. In fact, the Christians co-opted the symbolism of the eggs into the celebration just so they could convert the pagans.

"So they weren't originally part of the Easter celebration?"

Not in the least, Karl.

"Well. . ." he thought for a minute. "I guess that's okay. At least jelly beans are still an official part of Easter."

Yeah, about that. . .?



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