Do you recall when both Good Friday and Easter Sunday Church services were compulsory? In some households, no objections were tolerated against attending these services. I actually had a fondness for Easter Sunday service. Good Friday's service was three hours long, from midday to 3:00PM! I went not because I wanted to but more so because I had to. I grew up with my great grand father, such traditions were regimented.
What I loved about the Easter Sunday service was the hymns! Growing up in the Anglican faith, hymn number 51 from the Ancient & Modern Hymn Book was always my favourite Easter song.
Lo! He comes in clouds descending_. I belted that song verse for verse with the rest of the congregation and felt very much uplifted too in the process!
I am trying to think if there are any Good Friday hymns that I can recall but unfortunately not. Even though I found the Good Friday service slightly tedious, there was still an element about it that caught my slight interest. I suppose it was the thought, as a young man growing up, that on this day thousands of years ago, a man called Jesus died on the cross for the sake of humanity. At that stage of my life, some aspects of Jesus' death I did not fully understand, others I just accepted. Still though, it was a good family tradition to attend both these Easter services.
I have been thinking though, does Easter hold that same importance for people today as it once did? Actually, let me be more focused in my question, does Easter still have the same meaning for Caribbean people, especially those in the Diaspora?
Before writing this article, I inquired from a friend if they already had their Good Friday fish dinner. The response I got was, instead of having the traditional Good Friday fish dinner; they had just finished having a sumptuous beef dinner! Blasphemous you say? No, let's not be too dramatic but admittedly it is a drastic shift from the custom of how we grew up, I must admit. I for one support individualism and change but at the same time there is a traditionalist within me surrounding certain customs. Having fish on Good Friday is one that I still hold on to. I wonder how many of us deviated from our Good Friday fish dinner in favour of more non-religiously aligned meals? I will be sure to ask my friend if they were still living in the Caribbean, if they would have still eaten beef? Hey! You never know!
Another observation I have made is the not too subtle repositioning of Easter being less about the death and resurrection of Christ but more towards seeking out the Easter bunny and maximising chocolate sales! For every ten adverts I see on TV within an hour, I can almost swear that six of them are about chocolate and that sly looking Easter bunny.
Buy as much chocolate as possible, after all it's Easter!
Is the Easter bunny replacing Jesus and that spiritual aspect of Easter? We have already seen the commercialisation of Christmas away from the birth of Christ to one of gift giving galore. Of course, there is nothing wrong with gifts, we all like receiving them! However, the sidelining of the original meaning behind Christmas and now Easter, is slightly worrying for some.
Movies depicting the Crucifixion are hardly now shown on television. It was a tradition for some families to sit down and watch one of these movies that recanted the Crucifixion of Jesus. Such movies gave further meaning and relevance to the day and furthermore gave young members of the family an understanding beyond what they may not have been able to grasp during the Church service. It seems more and more that these dramatisations are being seen less on our television screens.
Maybe the Church no longer plays that significant of a role in shaping our communities. The over reaching arm of the free market now seemingly dictates a more commercialised Easter and a less religious one. Customs have changed, meat is eaten instead of fish, the Easter bunny now has pride of place in the household and attending Good Friday service now appears to be more of a nuisance than it once was.
Well, let's hope Easter Sunday Church service gets a good reception!
Jeevan Robinson is Editor-in-Chief of MNI Alive. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo credit to Chris Illman