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Why Easter Isn’t (Really) Celebrated in the United States

Easter? In a nation of religious ceremonies, enthusiastic celebrants, and vocal supporters, surely Americans should be the most enthusiastic Easter revelers on the planet. But the truth is, Easter celebrations in the US are a surprisingly understated affair when compared to other countries.

Easter for me has always meant a four-day weekend where you go camping, see friends, and sit quietly for such a long time that you start to forget what work really felt like. It was a magical time of year in March or April and you'd count down the days until it arrived (and dream about it once it had gone).

So after moving to the US, I had fully expected this would be a thing as well, especially considering how seriously I thought they took Christmas… but turns out it's not.

While it certainly exists and most people would know it's Easter, there are many fewer signs in windows, Easter eggs on display, or, most importantly, days off. It passes by like any other weekend, and I feel like I'm missing out. Maybe I should move to the UK for the weekend each year? So why is this?

Commercialization Lags Behind Christmas

Walk into any store in December, and you'll be bombarded by Christmas cheer. Easter, on the other hand, is less of a retail juggernaut. While you'll certainly find those chocolate bunnies and Easter baskets, the holiday doesn't command the same level of commercial hype. This translates to a less intense national focus for Easter.

  • Less festive decorations in public spaces
  • Smaller selection of Easter-themed merchandise
  • Lower ‘holiday shopping' rush surrounding Easter

This is most likely one of the main reasons that compared to Christmas (which was made a Federal Holiday in 1870) that Easter isn't even a Federal Holiday in the US. With less commercialization comes less lobbying to make something so!

Easter Isn't a Federal Holiday

While there's no denying the religious significance of Easter, it doesn't have the official status enjoyed by holidays like Christmas or Thanksgiving. As Easter always falls on a Sunday, there's no additional day off for government employees or widespread business closures. This lack of official recognition takes away some of the holiday's nationwide impact.

  • Government offices remain open
  • Businesses usually run as normal
  • Reduced sense of a nationwide ‘pause' for the holiday

This is quite likely not only due to the fact that commercialization lags behind Christmas, but also because Easter always happens on a Sunday, so back in the day, the stores were already closed, so they didn't need it to be a holiday (when Sunday was treated as a more holy day).

Focus is on the Secular

Easter egg hunts, chocolate bunnies, and even those fluffy chicks (what even is a “Peep”?) – Americans certainly love the cutesy, secular aspects of Easter. However, there's less public emphasis on the religious origins and deeper meaning of the holiday. Church attendance might surge, but there's not the same level of widespread reflection that surrounds Christmas.

  • Emphasis on candy and playful traditions rather than religious significance
  • Limited public discussion of the theological themes of Easter
  • Less ‘spiritual' weight given to the celebration

Finally, there's simply a Lack of National Traditions

Unlike the established rituals around Thanksgiving or even Halloween, Easter lacks those cohesive, nationwide traditions beyond a church service and Easter egg hunts (which are few and far between). This contributes to a less unified Easter experience across the nation.

Christmas, while obviously related to Christianity, also falls in a time where many religions and groups celebrate the time of year, so it's slipped in to common discussion without us realizing.

  • No equivalent of the ‘Thanksgiving Dinner'
  • Fewer large-scale public events or parades
  • Varied levels of celebration between different regions or cultural backgrounds

So it's a combination of history, religion (or there lack of), and tradition that leads to those of us living in the US not getting a four-day weekend.

But hopefully you can at least enjoy some Easter eggs, and a quiet Friday afternoon! If you're looking for Hot Cross Buns, look no further than the Australian Women in New York!

Josh Pugh

Josh Pugh

Josh is a business founding, digital marketing focused, charity driving, community builder from South Australia, living in New York City. After moving in 2017, Josh realized that there was an opportunity to curate and help the community of expats who moved to the United States – and launched America Josh. Josh is also the President of Variety – the Children's Charity of New York, Secretary at The Mateship Foundation, and Founder & CEO at Fortnight Digital.View Author posts

1 thought on “Why Easter Isn’t (Really) Celebrated in the United States”

  1. (from an American) My sense is that the primary cheerleaders of every holiday in the United States has become retail sales. And, Easter Bunny aside, maybe crucifixion just doesn’t play as well, from a retail promotion perspective. That said, the retailers seem to manage ok promoting sales on Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Maybe general secular enthusiasm for Easter might compare with Memorial Day and Veterans Day; I don’t know. But the major seasonal celebration is SPRING BREAK – relative to which some towns have attempted to curtail the associated crazy partying! Does Australia have an equivalent to Spring Break in Orlando, Miami, or South Padre Island, Texas? Maybe Bali?

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