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branches-trees-sunrise-nature-thorns-hd-wallpaperEaster isn’t a big enough deal for evangelicals in the West.

I know I’m making this statement at precisely the moment when preparations for a big Easter Sunday (and a Good Friday service) are underway.

  • The pastor is devoting significant time to the Easter message.
  • Choirs and praise teams are working hard to create a somber atmosphere for Friday and celebratory fervor on Sunday.
  • Small group leaders are gearing up for one of the biggest Sundays of the year.

When it comes to church attendance in North America, this Sunday is one of the big three: There’s Christmas, there’s Easter, and now Mother’s Day follows close behind.

So, let me clarify. When I say that Easter isn’t a big enough deal, I’m not talking about pastors and church leaders and choirs. I’m not talking about all the dear servants of the Lord who work so hard at making Easter Sunday memorable (and let’s not forget the selfless volunteers who will take care of children in the nursery this week).

I’m talking about the rest of us.

I’m talking about the Christians who are in church week after week and who love to dress a little finer and sing a little louder on Easter, but who – for whatever reason – will let this moment pass as quickly as it came. I’m talking about Christians who, by Sunday afternoon, will be thinking about Spring Break, vacations, or the final quarter of the school year.

In other words, I’m talking about Christians who see Easter as a day instead of a season. Which begs the question: Why do we spend an entire season of the year thinking about and celebrating Christmas, but just a weekend thinking about and celebrating the impact of the resurrection? 

The Objections

But Trevin, isn’t every Sunday a resurrection Sunday? There’s nothing in the Bible about seasons. Let’s not make legalistic rules of how celebrations go.

Yes, every Sunday is a celebration of our Lord’s resurrection.

And you’re right, there is nothing in the Bible that says we must spend extra days and weeks in celebration of the empty tomb.

And no, I’m not being a legalist, unless telling someone to have an extra portion of dessert is somehow being a rule-keeper. (Trevin, how dare you tell me to enjoy this more!)

I’m simply saying that Easter morning is the turning point of world history and the defining moment for Christianity. This is the day when God’s new world began. It’s the day when our own resurrection from the dead was secured. It’s the first time in history when someone went through death and came out the other side – victorious, in glory, mysteriously new and yet the same.

Since this is true, why do we only celebrate for a day and not a season?

  • Since we sing Christmas songs in church for several weeks leading up Christmas, why can’t we sing Easter songs for a few weeks after the resurrection?
  • Since we’re used to hearing Christmas music for weeks around Christmas, why can’t we create playlists and sing Easter music this time of year?
  • Since we have traditions for our Christmas celebrations – some with the church and others with our families, why can’t maintain and extend these traditions for Easter?

Eastertide in Romania

Easter is a season, not just a day. And as someone who has experienced Eastertide firsthand, I confess that I miss it terribly.

In Romania, the evangelical churches (influenced by the Orthodox emphasis on the resurrection) gave much more attention to Easter.

  • Our taste buds knew it was Easter when we savored the lamb.
  • Our ears knew it was Easter because the greeting “Christ is risen, He is risen indeed” was standard for more than a month after Easter Sunday had passed.
  • For weeks after Easter, the sermons and songs followed the story of the risen Lord. (The Sunday after Easter usually made mention of Jesus’ appearance to doubting Thomas.)
  • We heard the great resurrection stories and post-resurrection appearances of Jesus again and again.

When I lived in Romania, I remember thinking, Easter is a big deal.

I miss Eastertide. I miss the 50 days between Easter and Pentecost. And it’s not because I don’t have my own Easter playlist going full blast during this time. I do, and I love it. It’s because I feel like I’m on my own. Everyone else seems to have moved on from Easter already.

Don’t Waste The Easter Season

Can we change this? Can we make sure that Easter isn’t a big deal only to the people who are in charge of our worship services and sermons? Is it asking too much to say that our celebration of the definitive moment in world history ought to linger for a while? Is it possible for the day to spill over into a season in which we dance and shout and sing and celebrate the climactic moment of Christianity that is now the lynchpin of our faith?

We are the only people in the world who visit the grave of the founder of our faith to see what isn’t there. That’s a big deal, and it’s time we made it that way.

(I welcome your suggestions about how to make Easter great again. See my suggestions for an Easter playlist if you want to join me in the musical side of this celebration.)


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Comments:


21 thoughts on “Why Does Christmas Get a Season, But Easter Only a Day?”

  1. Brandon Vogt says:

    This is a strange question for the majority of Christians in the world, namely, Catholic and Orthodox, since for them Easter is a season. It lasts from Easter Sunday until Pentecost, fifty days later. Let’s not be too myopic as Western evangelicals….

  2. Nathanael says:

    To be fair, a lot of churches have make a big deal of the season leading up to Easter, namely Lent. Anglicans, Lutherans, and Catholics certainly do.

  3. As a former Baptist, now an Anglican I chuckle once again. The “free church” has not so much gained freedom (since it still, practically speaking, has its creeds, traditions and liturgies) as it has lost the historical roots (like the seasons) and with it much wisdom, beauty and meaning. I’ve made the same point about lent and Advent on this forum in response to posts like this one. While their certainly are abuses to be shunned in the church after the apostles, and particularly after Constintine, I fear that the baby and the bath water have been discarded,

  4. Andrew Ziegler says:

    by way of babysteps – many schools don’t have the Monday after easter off. Christian schools probably should, and it’s probably a good idea for people to take a day off work if possible. We are having our kids stay home from school on Monday and I’ll be taking off work. That helps the day of Easter feel more joyful and free of cares, knowing that nobody has to get back to work / school the next day.

  5. M.G. says:

    Sounds like someone is itching to become an Anglican/Lutheran/Liturgical Protestant!

    1. Jim says:

      It seems itching instead to be more faithful to the meaning of the events – to celebrate them with more intentionality and focus, distinct from the secular expressions. That this is done by other denominations says that they, as do baptists, have something to offer Christendom in its various “streams”. Denominationalism is the major force that has kept us from offering our best to one another. To my mind, suggesting changing denominations is simply continuing the problem. If instead we would humbly learn from one another, God would be honored, the world have less to be critical of and our lives richer.

  6. Marilyn Kok says:

    For many years, at our church (which has since disbanded) we celebrated a cycle of seven Sundays between the beginning of Lent and Easter Sunday based on John Stott’s Cross of Christ. Stott describes four pictures of atonement–propitiation (the temple), justification (the court of law), redemption (the market) and reconciliation (the home). The first Sunday was an overview of atonement and our need for atonement (basically what Lent represents), then the four images of atonement, then Palm Sunday and Easter. We celebrated with readings, dramatic skits, music and banners. It made Easter a much more significant and meaningful celebration at our church.

  7. Caleb says:

    It’s already been already pointed out above, but I just can’t resist reiterating that *cough* Easter is, in fact, a season, just not for evangelicals who either shun the Church Year or arbitrarily cherry-pick from it. And it’s only because of the latter practice that it’s even possible for Easter to be reduced to a solitary day in the first place.

    When it comes to the Church Year, it’s all or nothing: the seasons and feasts only make sense in their relation to the whole of which they are parts. If you don’t have the whole, then you’re ultimately left with a few days that just randomly appear as “sacred” for some reason before you revert back to “normal” time.

    So without any concept of sacred time, it’s no wonder that Easter ends up being just a day for many evangelicals.

  8. Gary Westra says:

    I think this is a great suggestion! And one does not need to change their liturgical style to apply some of the concepts. A Higher Church Liturgy has never worked for me personally, but I love to make some use of the Liturgical calendar, following the Life of Our Lord.
    And let me ask a question: DO YOU CELEBRATE PENTECOST?
    I think those with lower church leanings sometimes skip it all together. Let it not be so! It is the only celebration the church has left that hasn’t co-opted by commercialism.

  9. barbara rainey says:

    I completely agree with your post and have been praying for three years that God will give us creative ideas and practical suggestions to help families elevate Easter. I’m working hard in our ministry, FamilyLife, to make this happen with several things already created for families and also some more decorative, but still biblical, items to help our homes look like it’s Resurrection Day just as we do for Christmas. I applaud the efforts of the churches as do you but moms and dads need help to know what to do to make more of this pivotal event in history. Watch for more next year at everthinehome.com. Praying God grants favor! Thank you for your post. I’m encouraged to read that someone else is also passionate about Easter.

    1. Carriann cook says:

      I had this same thought this morning. Why is Easter only a day? Glad I happened upon this article and agree fully. Celebrating the resurrection should come easily and sincerely for us.

  10. MRS says:

    There’s no reason to get creative on this – liturgical Christians – including Protestants – do this as part of our normal Christian life, both corporately and individually.

    The interesting question as more and more younger evangelicals move towards a traditional understanding of Advent/Christmas and then Lent/Easter/Pentecost – will the old free church distinctives hold up?

  11. Brendan O'Rourke says:

    This is what happens when people divorce their practice of Christianity from the actual lived tradition of it for over two millennia.
    As many have pointed out, Easter not only gets 50 Days as a Season, but the day itself is celebrated as an Octave, meaning we celebrated Easter Day for eight continuous days.
    And on the topic of Christmas, we do not sing Christmas songs in the time leading up to Christmas (Advent); we sing Advent hymns and songs, and pray Advent prayers.
    When Christmas finally arrives, as would make sense, that is when we sing Christmas songs and pray Christmas prayers.
    You ask, “Can we change this?”
    But you already have, and to what end?

  12. Wesley Woods says:

    i think the main reason why Easter seems to get just a single day is that the church in the West has been influenced by culture instead of influencing the culture. just think when it comes to Christmas, Christmas is over many times the day after Christmas in most Christian homes. sadly many times for Christmas Christians shop until they drop just like their non-Christian neighbors. our churches need to return to the liturgical calendar and lectionary, which would force pastors to grapple with texts that bother them and their congregation as well as turn Easter into a season instead of one day.

  13. Don Bryant says:

    One of the things I do so much enjoy in observing the Church Year as an Evangelical is the way it helps me fully immerse myself in the Trinity-incarnation, death, resurrection and the giving of the Holy Spirit. Weeks are given to these truths to feed our spiritual and theological root systems. The four weeks of advent to focus me on Christ’s second coming, the twelve days of Christmas, Lent, the Tridiuum, the preparation for Pentecost through meditation on the Easter truths, all tied together on Trinity Sunday. The year becomes Trinity. Evangelicals lose much in skipping and jumping in their preaching, worship and ministry. We lose rhythm, narrative, the interconnectedness of a world made new in Christ. I am gladdened to see new church plants increasingly explore the liturgical pattern of church life.

    1. Wesley Woods says:

      the sad thing is that most Evangelicals have a clue of what they are missing from the liturgical pattern of the church and the lectionary. i also think this is a side effect from Darby’s dispensationalism and redefining our blessed from resurrection to pre-rapture in order to avoid Darby’s hell on earth and death.

  14. Richard says:

    We are planning on having Easter music sung after Easter. Why not celebrate it for a long time? So, we are involving mainly soloists, but we will probably use a pullout from the Easter musical (Lifeway’s “Jesus, Only Jesus”) to sing after July 3 and another pullout from the same musical in September or October. We can celebrate Easter during any service for sure because He is risen!

  15. David says:

    I think a few good things to ask is, what kind of things can we do to make the season special. Part of the draw of Christmas is the darkened nights, lit by a Christmas Tree and carols in the background. Wreaths are hung, bannisters are wrapped with garland and Family is important. Schools get 2 weeks to a month off. All of this comes together with a nostalgic feeling.

    So, if we want to make Easter this alluring, we’d have to come up with some sort of traditions. And not mandate them. No one tells you to put a Christmas Tree up. You just do it if you are inclined. So what types of things could we have? Do we decorate with fresh flowers? Do we put up lights or decorations, bannisters wrapped with Gold garland? What was traditionally done for Easter? I agree with the Music aspect. We should have a focus on Easter music that plays on our radio stations as much as Christmas Music is played during December. It would require artists to start singing more Resurrection hymns and coming up with their own Easter carols. But something about Dreaming of a Green Easter doesn’t have the same ring as Dreaming of a White Christmas. (on a side note, “Now the green blade rises” is perfect for a song since it’s the same tune as “Sing we now of Christmas, sing we now noel.” That would be fantastic to tie the songs together.)

    In short, Christmas is a cultural phenomenon because it has visual, auditory and aesthetic draws to it. What visual, auditory, and aesthetic draws do we create for Easter?

  16. Curt Day says:

    I think the answer to the question posed in the title is rather obvious. There is more money to be made at Christmas time rather than during Easter. This kind of shows us where we have been and are as Christians. It’s an indictment on all of us.

  17. Reynald says:

    There’s no reason to get creative on this – liturgical Christians – including Protestants – do this as part of our normal Christian life, both corporately and individually.

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Trevin Wax


​Trevin Wax is Bible and Reference Publisher at LifeWay Christian Resources and managing editor of The Gospel Project. You can follow him on Twitter or receive blog posts via email. Click here for Trevin’s full bio.

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