Easter is so not the most religious American holiday

Nothing portrays a culture’s religious traditions better than the people, places and things of that culture. This time of year we celebrate the once rebirth-themed religious holiday with pastel candy eggs, marshmallow birds and chocolate bunnies. Some say Easter is our culture’s most religious holiday, but I don’t think that is true.

I once devoted a lot of time to reading and writing about the meaning of religious traditions. I liked to ask, is the Christmas season about the birth of Christ, or more about celebrating light and hope during the darkest, bleakest time of year? Likewise, is Easter about the rebirth of Christ, or about celebrating the renewal of life on earth? Isn’t that what eggs and bright colors and Easter baskets full of green grass and bunnies (famous for their reproduction habits), really represent?

I read once that The United States of America is one of the “most religious” nations in the world. I thought, how could that possibly be? We have great religious diversity, and we have churches all over the place, but we have tremendous numbers of secularists and people who consider themselves non-religious as well.

I think I found an explanation to our unmatched national prowess of religiousness. Allow me to indulge in a slightly lengthy (sorry) but highly readable (promise) guide to the religiosity of our most religious holidays, when one takes into account our true national religion: Consumerism.

American culture is steadily accented by frequent holidays peppered throughout the year that celebrate our orthodox consumerism here in the greatest country on earth. We start the year with New Year’s Eve, in which Americans typically partake in a rich tradition of buying expensive cheeses and getting wasted on alcohol as one year transforms into another. The next day many Americans pledge to not get wasted again for any number of weeks (or days) and sometimes even begin a period of self deprivation that can also include food.

Then comes Valentine’s Day, during which devout Americans celebrate their love for each other and/or themselves by purchasing and eating large amounts of candy and chocolate, mostly packaged in red and pink, the colors of blood and cardiac tissue.

Go into any Third Supermarket Aisle from the Left (Americans’ most visited sacred place of worship) the day after Valentine’s Day and you’ll see gleeful decorations for the next significant American [sic] holiday, St. Patrick’s Day! It isn’t celebrated for over a month after Valentine’s Day, but there’s no need to postpone the anticipatory joy until March 17th when Americans celebrate glorious St. Patrick’s Day by boiling foods we don’t normally boil, dressing entirely in green clothing, dying our breakfast green, and getting wasted.

No need to be glum once the fun is over, because Americans get to rejuvenate their dopamine circuits almost immediately as they look forward to.. (Say it if you know it!) the-Sunday-that-follows-the full-moon-that-follows-the-spring-equinox.. when every Third Supermarket Aisle from the Left once again literally transforms overnight from only green stuff to green, pink, yellow and purple stuff. Ask any child in America what Easter means to him or her and he or she will respond, “Marshmallow peeps, Cadbury Eggs and gross hollow chocolate bunnies!”

In America, it is custom on Easter to consume large amounts of chocolate that varies in its degree of low quality. Some families also budget for a large feast of normal food in addition to the subpar chocolate. But one thing is certain, in our culture, Easter means buy lots of consumable stuff that comes in colorful wrappers! You haven’t experienced spring in America until you’ve gazed at the glorious pastels scattered upon a classroom floor on the day after Easter. As if a brilliant advertising scheme, April’s violet crocuses and yellow daffodils often remind one of the lovely colorful foil and plastic wrappers of Easter. But while you might think this delightful holiday reflects our most devout religious traditions of consumerism, you surely don’t know what’s to come later in the year!

While there technically is a holiday in May, it is not recognized in the sacred Third Supermarket Aisle from the Left and only celebrates moderate consumerism, and is therefore not considered a major religious holiday. It is designed to celebrate those who have given their lives to serve our country. Americans typically celebrate this by eating lots of food cooked outside the house, and drinking beer that is not green. But then return to the aforementioned place of worship and you’ll see the signs of our next amazing and unique American holiday, Independence Day, where Americans celebrate free will by once again eating lots of food outside, drinking non-green beer, and frightening neighborhood dogs with thunderous explosives! Most days, Americans love their dogs and spend lots of sacred money on treats and toys for them. It is only on Independence Day that Americans do not love their dogs. Sometimes, Americans also get wasted on this holiday.

The next holiday is another less major one. It is called Labor Day, and it is a day Americans celebrate their rich tradition of sleep deprivation and spending more time at work than with their families. This holiday is only sometimes celebrated by getting wasted.

Don’t forget to pay homage to the sacred Third Supermarket Aisle on the Left immediately after Labor Day, because next is Halloween season, which lasts for two full months during which Americans decorate nearly everything in festive black and blaze orange. During this very sacred period, Americans buy lots and lots of black and orange plastic things they will never ever use again and scatter them in their yards and in trees. Halloween season ends on October 31st, when Americans buy hundreds of dollars worth of candy and medium-to-low quality chocolate and give it away to begging teenagers dressed in plastic bags (and some parents with babies in vegetable costumes). Other Americans celebrate by disguising themselves and getting wasted.

You’ve never quite experienced the glorious colors of this sacred American holiday until you’ve gazed at the spectrum of orange and black plastic and foil wrappers upon a classroom floor on November 1st. American children often experience deep collective sugar lows at this time, which is why November 1st is known in America as The Day of the Depressed. But not for long! Go to any sacred Third Supermarket Aisle on the Left for Halloween candy that is 50% off! You can’t beat that!

After Halloween is Thanksgiving, during which Americans buy and then eat dangerously excessive amounts of food to the point where they become misshapen and incapable of sleep, despite being weirdly tired. That is all this holiday is.

Truly the most religious of all American holidays is Christmas, also known as The 93 Days Of Christmas, which some orthodox Third Supermarket Aisles from the Left begin celebrating as early as late summer. It lasts throughout fall, during which Americans illuminate their neighborhoods with millions upon millions of energy-efficient LED micro-lights and also inflated snowmen that head-bang in the wind. The season culminates two times– once the day after Thanksgiving, during which Americans deprive themselves of sleep in order to stand in very long lines and spend heaps of their sacred money on items they could buy on other days– and once on December 25th, when children and adults cover up all the things they have bought for each other and then uncover them ceremoniously and act surprised. Prior to December 25th, Americans eat up to 12 cookies per day at parties where they also sometimes get wasted.

The holiday ends on December 26th, a day known as Second Christmas, during which many of the things they uncovered on the First Christmas are brought back to their original place of purchase in return for a cash refund! Glory Hallelujah!

Now, after that summary of American religious holidays, are you still convinced Easter is the most religious? America is, after all, the country where the freedom to consume at will reigns more universally sacred than any other act. While Easter represents a super lot of consuming, I sincerely doubt it beats out Independence Day, Halloween and Christmas as the holiday with the most uniquely American religiosity.

James Tatum Gale

About James Tatum Gale

I have been a teacher in Maine schools for twelve years, and a writer and musician since childhood. I acquired a Master's degree in Teaching from USM, and a Certificate in Math Leadership from UMF. My undergraduate degree is in Philosophy with a concentration in Comparative Religion from the University of Maine (1994). I live with my wife, Erin, and my dog, Sally, in Bowdoinham.