The Changing Face of Easter

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 3, 2006

The children rushed around the Lawrence County Fairgrounds Saturday, scrambling to find the brightly colored eggs filled with goodies. Some of them were very careful in their approach, but others had less discriminating tastes and jumped on each egg they could find.

Bertrice Johnson brought her granddaughter to the hunt, but said she hopes to teach her more than how to hunt down the eggs with the most delectable surprises inside.

“To me, we need to celebrate the resurrection of our lord,” said Johnson, of Rome Township. “The other activities are fun, but I still think teaching your kids and grandkids about the real meaning of it all is vital.”

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Many people agree with Johnson, saying the traditional celebration of Easter has remained intact, save a few extra lilies and a few more jellies beans and chocolate bunnies.

“We live in a very traditional, conservative area,” said the Rev. Steve Harvey, long-time pastor of Sharon Baptist Church. “Personally, I think it (Easter) is pretty much the same as it has always been.”

The church held its Spring revival earlier this week and had a cross walk from the church to Woodland Cemetery Friday, both of which are long-time traditions for the congregation.

Harvey said he only sees two things that may have changed somewhat: the music and the commercialism. He says contemporary music has become more popular in some churches than the traditional hymns used in past generations. As far as commercialism, Harvey said Easter is not nearly as marketed as the other major holiday on the Christian calendar.

“Now Christmas, that’s a totally different story,” Harvey said. “That’s just gotten totally out of hand.”

Easter crowds smaller

Father Anthony Batt of the Catholic Community Churches said the overall drop in church attendance spills over into the Easter season. Although church attendance on Easter hovers around the 50 percent mark for Christians, according to a 2005 gallup poll,

the poll found most of the people going on the holiday already attend church intermittently — at least once every two months.

“I think it is losing more and more of its Christian roots, but I think it is rather well-appreciated by most people,” Batt said.

Kerry Sims, of Burlington, said she and most of her friends and family will not be attending church. She does not go any other time of the year, so she does not feel it is appropriate to go on a specific holiday.

“I am a spiritual person and I believe in God, but I do not attend a specific church,” Sims said. “I don’t like to see people who never go (to church), then decide they need to go on Easter.”

She said God sees everybody 365 days a year and knows what is truly in their hearts.

Changes in the Easter business climate

It is not just the spiritual folks that see some differences in the holiday. Business owners say they have also seen some changes.

Weber’s Florist’s has seen an increase in the number of churches they decorate for the holiday, according to manager Bonnie McGoron. Long gone are the days of a few scattered lilies near the alter, now churches are making elaborate displays in their efforts to show their respect for the holiday. Weber’s employees decorate four churches themselves and two other churches order their lilies through the florist, McGoron said.

She said one of the main differences over the past 20 years is the number of corsages sold. Once a mainstay of every woman’s wardrobe on Easter — in addition to the traditional Easter bonnet and pastel-colored dress — the corsage has become a thing of the past it seems. Weber’s has only made about 20 of those this year.

Bekki Zornes, a stay-at-home mom turned business entrepreneur, makes baskets filled with goodies of all kinds for all occasions. Her business venture, Bekki’s Baskets, has skyrocketed during the Easter season. She makes other types of personalized baskets throughout the year.

Parents and grandparents pay her to make individualized baskets for their children, a relatively new concept.

“Easter is a lot more merchandisable than it used to be,” Zornes explained.

She said she still tries to keep her eye on the true meaning of Easter and not the amount of money she brings in for her unique work.

“We still appreciate what the season is all about and that’s what we (her and her husband Jay) try to teach (their 3-year-old daughter) Lilly,” Zornes said.

That old-time religion

This is Agnes Lightner 91st Easter. Over the years, she has fond memories of what it means to her and her family.

As a member of the Centenary Baptist Church, she said faith has been the centerpiece of what she calls the holiest of holidays.

“It’s our responsibility to talk to people about Easter and have people understand what the holiday is all about,” Lightner

said as she left the Ironton Ministerial Association’s Good Friday service at St. Paul Lutheran Church.

Her sister, 88-year-old Irene Wickline, also remembers the old-time Easters where her family would go to church together and then gather around the dinner table for a hearty, home cooked meal.

There were no Easter baskets she said, much less any jelly beans or marshmallow Peeps.

“If they had them (egg hunts) we don’t remember them,” Wickline said with a laugh. “We did have some good pies and cakes made with eggs though.”

The old adage that families that pray together, stay together is something that is near and dear to many people’s hearts this time of year, said Pat Duncan, of Pedro.

“I want it to be like the old days, when we all went to church and we made a good dinner,” Duncan said. “We all gathered at the table and we may not have had a lot, but we knew that it was all given to us by the grace of God.”

He said he will be in his pew at Easter and prays for those who won’t be.