Alternative ways to observe the holidays

Whether it’s Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, or some other public holiday, traditions can be a wonderful thing. But what if there’s something about the occasion that leaves you feeling left out in the cold?

There are a multitude of reasons we might not buy into a national celebration. Maybe it doesn’t align with our religious or political beliefs. Maybe we don’t have people to share it with. Perhaps we have difficult memories of it that bring us down. Whatever the cause of our discomfort, we don’t all get the same joy from shared traditions. It’s easy to get swept along with public opinion and feel a need to go through the traditional motions, but in doing so we often forget the purpose of what the holiday stands for in the first place.

Easter is a classic case. It’s a Christian festival commemorating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, but many who celebrate it have no religious affiliation or belief. And lots of people are equally unaware of where Easter traditions come from or their underlying meaning, although still feel compelled to follow them.

For example, did you know that:

  • Until the 8th century there was controversy over the agreed date Christianity observed Jesus’ Resurrection, and therefore Easter. The dispute was known as the Paschal controversies, and was defined by a divide between East and West. Western churches opted for the first Sunday after the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan (somewhere in our modern March-April), but Eastern Orthodox churches based it on the Julian calendar and recognised a later date, which was not permitted to overlap with Jewish Passover.
  • In Christianity, Easter follows lent which is a traditional period of penance and fasting. From the 12th century, meals that followed this fast were blessed and often included eggs and sweets among other foods like bread, meat, and cheese.
  • Painted eggs can be traced back to the 13th century, and were originally symbolic of Jesus’ Resurrection and new life. The eating of eggs was prohibited during Holy Week, and eggs laid during that period were dubbed Holy Week Eggs. They were decorated and displayed to mark their significance.
  • The concept of the Easter Bunny came from Protestant Europe in the 17th century, with some countries recognising different animals as the egg bearers, such as cuckoos and foxes.

Despite its Christian origin, Easter has since become big business in the commercial world. In the UK alone in 2022, retail spending on the holiday reached an estimated £1.3 billion according to market data from Statista. And the vast majority of that spending has nothing to do with the intended meaning of Easter.

But that doesn’t mean traditions, even commercialised ones, aren’t without merit. Ultimately, it’s not about following a set of pre-determined activities and slapping on a happy face to follow those around us. Traditions are about the sentiment we attach to them, and it is our right to choose if and how we observe them.

There can be just as much merit in creating our own traditions, or opting out of them completely and taking that time back to spend on something that does make us happy. If you prefer to observe a holiday in a different way, you might consider:

  • What about the occasion doesn’t work for you? Can you change how you approach it to make that aspect of it feel better? For example: swapping chocolate eggs for some other food if you are vegan; spending the holiday in a different location if you have difficult memories of it at home; or choosing a completely unrelated activity if it doesn’t align with your personal values or beliefs.
  • Is it a tradition you need to observe at all, or would you be happier just ignoring it? Could you spend the time on an activity you love, with friends or family, or on self-care or wellbeing instead?
  • Letting loved ones know how you feel and asking them to respect your choice to opt out. There’s nothing like feeling peer pressure to join in when you just don’t want to.
  • If you feel lonely in your viewpoint, you could seek out like-minded people. Whether from your community or online, a few exchanged comments or messages can be a reminder you are not alone and you’re not the only one opting out.

Whatever the holiday does or doesn’t mean to you, your feelings about it are yours and you have the right to spend it however you choose, without social pressure or ‘eggspectation.’ So happy Sunday from Break That Mould. May your day be filled with whatever makes you happy and comfortable.

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