“Easter is the most important holiday,” a friend said to me last week.
I raised my eyebrows in surprise. My friend is an intellectual who values his cultural heritage—one that began shortly after the crucifixion of Christ and that is rooted in a much richer history than my own, which began only a few hundred years ago with the Protestant Reformation. But this friend attends church only a handful of times a year, mostly during Holy Week.
I, on the other hand, attend services nearly every Sunday but rarely am in town for Holy Week. Each year, the school system where I work either begins or ends spring break on Easter weekend. And so, for our entire marriage my husband and I have packed up the car and headed to the ocean for that most serious and important of Christian holidays.
For most of our marriage we have joined our closest couple friends—an agnostic and a Baptist who are also educators—and we have celebrated life and a week of freedom from grading papers. Our children have grown up together, and I doubt that either of them remembers being inside a church on Easter Sunday. A few times we have attended sunrise services on the beach, but most of the time we have simply reveled in the gifts of life and friendship.
Last year, shortly before spring break, our Baptist friend died, and so my husband and I came to the beach alone for the first time in many years. This year, our friend, now a widow, came to the beach with us for a few days. The three of us navigated a new normal—my friend and I growing tearful when we opened a cabinet to see a coffee cup with her husband’s name on it. We had all laughed when he bought the cup and teased him that he was marking his territory. My friend made her way home early, knowing that it would be hard to stay the entire week on her first trip back since her husband had died.
But then my husband and I reconnected today with friends who also used to come down for beach week but had not for many years. These friends are Jewish, but they celebrate spring break much as we do, though they do observe Passover with their family. Their daughter, who has married a Christian, celebrates both Jewish and Christian holidays.
Last night they observed the Seder together as a family. But today we joined them to color eggs with their daughter’s four-year-old, who delighted us all with the pleasure he took in decorating those eggs. His mother thought he would be interested “for all of three minutes,” but he loved stirring those little tablets of color into the water, lowering the eggs, and watching them turn colors. While the eggs dried, he dragged his grandfather, my husband, and his mom downstairs to play foosball, and though he and his grandfather lost to my husband and his mother, he was happy to come back upstairs to put eyes and mouths and hair (!) onto the eggs.
Who knew that coloring eggs now requires making a paste of confectioners’ sugar and water to glue on the hair that looked like troll doll hair? My husband was the eye expert, I was the mouth expert, and his mother was the hair expert. At the end of the project, our friend’s four-year-old hammed it up for the camera, crossing his eyes and insisting on a “serious” picture, while all of us wanted to don the leftover hair as mustaches.
And while we haven’t engaged in a serious observance of Holy Week, I have been reminded of life, of joy, of love, of laughter. And though the Gospels are filled with stories of life, love, and rebirth, there isn’t any laughter. We’re reminded, in the shortest verse in the Bible, that, “Jesus wept.”
But he must have laughed, too. Those all-too-serious writers of the Gospels, bent on telling us the Good News, somehow forgot to tell us the stories of Jesus laughing.
And while we weren’t in church today, I think God probably looked down on that little boy, making all of us smile as he so seriously decorated those “Crazy Eggs.”
It was, altogether, an eggscellent day—a most important day that reminded me that every day is a day that the Lord has made, a day to rejoice and be glad in it.