Owing to so many reasons, including the downturn of the economy and different interpretations about its significance, Easter celebration has been fast losing its pomp and pageantry in recent times. ELEOJO IDACHABA went to town to find out if this year’s celebration will be different but he heard the same old complaints, with a few exceptions, of why this one will not be any different.
Christians all over the world will be marking the Easter celebration from tomorrow, to remind themselves about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Usually, Easter’s celebration date changes every year but it is mainly celebrated on the first Sunday after the full moon, after the spring equinox. According to the Bible, Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection occurred around the time of the Jewish Passover, which was celebrated on the first full moon following the spring equinox. This led to Christians celebrating Easter on different dates each year.
For the Western churches, the earliest date that Easter can fall is on March 22, and the latest it is on April 25. Significantly, Eastern Christianity bases its calculations on the Julian Calendar and because of the 13-day difference between the calendars, March 21 corresponds to April 3 in the Gregorian Calendar. Easter, therefore, varies between April 4 and May 8 in the Gregorian calendar. For this reason, Easter will fall on Sunday, April 1 on the Gregorian calendar and in the Julian calendar, it will fall on Sunday, April 8 this year. Christians celebrate Easter on a Sunday as it was the day Jesus rose from the dead, after being crucified on a Friday two days before. Significantly, the federal government had declared last Friday and next Monday as public holidays to celebrate Easter.
Yesterday was Good Friday, the day that historically, Jesus Christ was crucified. These are usually annual events celebrated with pomp and pageantry considering the importance attached to the festivals. For many Christian families in Nigeria, Easter is a moment for wining and dining . For others, it is a moment of travelling to the countryside in order to fraternise with other family members. Others see the period as a time of sober reflection, when Christians should go out to tell others about the love of God. In major cities, families and associations make out time for leisure and merriments in parks and gardens to enjoy the holiday. It is not therefore uncommon to find that most countries all over the world declare the period a public holiday to celebrate one way or the other. Easter, like Christmas, has always been a moment that Christians and non Christians alike look forward to due to the fanfare and merriment.
However, over the years, the Easter celebration has been austere and low-key across the country as much of the hype associated with it appears to be dying down gradually. Last week, Blueprint Weekend’s investigations show that the prevailing economic down turn in the country is largely responsible for the dour celebrations. In addition, our correspondent found out that there appears to be certain misconceptions about the celebration amongst Christians. According to our correspondent’s findings, some Christian faithful now feel that there is really no need to give the season any serious prominence in terms of fanfare. For this category of people, everyday should be celebration moments for a Christian.
Evangelist Mohammed John Maina of the Church of Christ said that “ the hype associated with Easter is dying down because people are beginning to know the truth about the celebration. Today, through advocacy and information on the social media, people are being enlightened about so many misconceptions that are going on in the church and that is why people now realise that such celebrations are not Biblical and so naturally, they will be discouraged. Again, there could be economic reasons but I do not think that is a major problem because man is a social animal who loves to celebrate even in the midst of lack.”
The Evangelist noted that in the whole Bible, the word ‘Easter’ was mentioned only once in the book of Acts 12:4, where it was stated that Peter who was in prison would be released after Easter. He therefore said that Easter celebration is not a major event in the Bible and historically, there is no specific date for the death and resurrection of Jesus even though it actually happened.
Easter still relevant
However for Pastor Jerry Omale, the Senior Pastor of Legacy Christian Assembly,Easter celebration still commands attention like before. According to him, “the hype is not dwindling as alleged because every day, Jesus is being celebrated in the lives of the people. Even with regards to the fanfare associated with it, a lot still happens to mark the celebration. For us in the Christian faith, it is not dwindling because every believer who knows the import of the forgiveness of sins, knows that it is not all about the fanfare but the experience. That is why the governments all over the world also declare the period a public holiday because of the expected celebrations that go with it. People talk about the fact that there is no particular date in history but that is not really important because even the United Nation’s (UN) accord each day to celebrate certain events all over the world. If the world can attach importance to the celebration of an event globally, nothing can compare with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
Celebrations without fanfare
Apart from the debate about whether or not Easter celebration has Biblical origins, the economic downturn in the country has also taken its toll on it generally. The fanfare, according to Ifeanyi Osuonye James, an Abuja resident is dying down because people can no longer afford certain luxuries compared to years gone by. He said most families prune down their expenses these days, especially over such festivals because immediately after the festivities, there are so many financial obligations to meet. “I personally don’t believe in flamboyant celebrations, where you have to travel with all the family members, for instance, and spend humongous amount as the case may be. As a Christian, everyday for us in the family is a day of celebration since we can see a new day. Besides, for some of us in business, we don’t spend money any how; we only spend to gain, outside that, it is difficult for any business man to spend during festivals.”
For Mrs Joy Salami, a teacher and single mother of three, the fanfare that is associated with Easter is dwindling because it has become so monotonous as there is no marked difference between it and Christmas celebration. “We have been celebrating Easter for years. We will still celebrate it in years to come and besides, there are several other celebrations like birthdays which is another major celebration in most families, so for me, we have too many celebrations such that the whole things have become so boring.Don’t forget that in between all of these, we also have the Muslim celebrations as well. If it is about food, we eat the same food everyday, wear expensive clothes everyday, so there is no much difference for me. May be that is why it appears to be waning.”
Significantly, Madam Jennifer Okpanachi, a caterer, believes that all is not well with how people celebrate Easter in recent times. She said the non prompt payment of salaries to workers before such festive seasons, which has become a norm in the last three years, is largely responsible for the lull in the celebration of Easter. “My brother, do you celebrate with an empty pocket? Workers’ pockets are what drive celebration but what do you find in the last couple of years? Sheer neglect of workers by employers of labour, especially in the private sector. If by now, most workers are not yet paid when Easter is less than four days, what do you expect will be the level of the celebration?, she posed a rhetorical question to our correspondent.
The celebration continues
However, some Christians are of the view that Easter is still being celebrated with the same, if not more fanfare, like yesteryears. In the opinion of Joshua Odo, an indigene of Benue state, if Easter celebration appears to be waning, it is in the mind of city dwellers as nothing has changed in the countryside. “People still look forward to Easter in Benue where I come from. In fact, I came here (Jabi Motor Park) to find out the cost of travelling from here to Oju because I can’t spend the Easter in Abuja.Whether one has money to spend or not, one must celebrate Easter. It is even better celebrated than Christmas”, he noted.
A gloomy celebration ahead
Last Wednesday, Blueprint Weekend visited the popular Magic land and Millennium Park in Abuja, to gauge its level of preparation for the celebration. Our correspondent found out that not much was being put in place to welcome the season. For example, at the Magic land, unlike years back or Yuletide season when all the motorised equipment are in perfect order, only a few of them are in good condition. In the words of an attendant who simply gave his name as Hamisu, “the management envisages that the level of patronage will be poor, so the expected low turn out of fun seekers does not warrant inviting engineers to refurbish some of the machines.”
Beside all these, it was found that the usual decorative lights that adorn major bus stops to herald the season were also absent in Abuja as at last Wednesday when this report was filed. This, according to observers, is an indication that the city is not in the mood of celebration.
Low traffic at motor parks
Similarly, our correspondent visited the various motor parks in Abuja, less than three days to Easter. Significantly, the usual hustling and bustling of the parks were absent. The volume of travellers outside the capital city was like any normal week day. A driver who goes by the name Chika Ugu with one of the popular transport companies with an office in Utako, told Blueprint Weekend that there is no difference between ordinary times and the current season because there are no passengers. According to him, “it seems Easter has been postponed. You people in the media should write to let the government know that people are suffering. I came from Owerri two days ago and was supposed to return since yesterday but see me here today. People are not travelling”, he fumed.
Church programmes at Easter
While it may be true that the prevailing economic situation may have largely affected the Easter celebration, many churches however have series of programmes uniquely designed for the festival. In The Transforming Church Gwarimpa, for instance, there is an Easter programme tagged: ‘Because Jesus lives, you are unstoppable’. A member of the church, Mr John Paul, told Blueprint Weekend that ‘’this is the best way to celebrate this Easter.” For him and other members of the church, there is no dull moment throughout the period.