Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Why are there so few Easter songs?

"Why do we have so few Easter songs?" my son asked. He was specifically talking about Church hymns and children's songs. "We have loads of Christmas songs but hardly any Easter songs," he said. He noted that while Christmas celebrates our Savior's miraculous birth, the only reason that Christmas and our entire religion have any meaning at all is Christ's Atonement, which is the focus of Easter. So why not more Easter songs?

It turns out that we do have a number of Easter hymns and songs. The hymnbook topic index lists 13 titles under the topic Easter. But I think that any of the 30 titles under the Sacrament heading would be suitable, as would a number of other hymns. The book lists 15 Christmas hymns.

The Children's Songbook topic index lists 17 Christmas songs and only 7 Easter songs, but again, I think that a number of other songs in the book suitably address the Savior and His Atonement.

My son makes a good point. Sacred music is an important part of our worship experience. And what could be more important than the message of Easter where we commemorate Christ's victory over sin and death? It's easy to bring sacred Christmas songs to mind but I think that the average Latter-day Saint would find it much more difficult to come up with many Easter songs.

Although people whine about the secularization of Christmas and the demise of sacred Christmas music in our culture, I think that it's actually quite common to encounter Christmas hymns for many weeks leading up to Christmas. We don't do Easter like that in our culture. It's pretty much limited to one weekend. So we just don't hear music specific to Easter all that often.

While the Church holds a place aloof from the broader culture, it is designed to serve people largely living in that broader culture. So it shouldn't be surprising that the Church tends to reflect society to a certain degree.

Our modern culture goes hog wild over Christmas. The secularization of Christmas began centuries ago when branches of the Christian church syncratized the celebration of Christ's birth with renewal traditions that existed in many cultures. That secularization has led to the holiday becoming a huge worldwide cultural event.

Easter has been secularized too. I can't for the life of me comprehend people taking their little kiddies to have photos taken with the Easter bunny. Most of those Easter bunny costumes look creepy anyway. Come to think of it, Santa costumes often do as well. Why do you think it's so common for kids to bawl like crazy while sitting on Santa's lap?

For the first time in more than two decades we dispensed with our annual family Easter egg hunt this year, figuring that our youngest is now too old for it. Last year when trying to find the last of the eggs we discovered one that had been hidden since the previous Easter. And then there are those people that roll Easter eggs. What's up with the whole Easter egg tradition anyway? Jim Gaffigan jokes that this and certain other holiday traditions seem like they were designed by a drunk guy.

Some people go crazy on Easter, making it another major gifting occasion. The secular portion of our Easter celebration has always been much more muted. We have had our annual plastic Easter egg hunt (until this year) and have put out Easter baskets filled with candy. My oldest son asked why Easter baskets had to contain a bed of fake plastic grass. So his basket didn't have any of that this year; just candy.

Perhaps it's my perception, but Easter still seems to have a significant religious focus for most celebrants. Music plays a major role for most that make it a communal worship experience.

This past Sunday our ward choir sang several Easter appropriate arrangements in sacrament meeting, culminating with a rousing rendition of the traditional Easter hymn He Is Risen! Praising the Lord for the miracle of the Savior's resurrection should always be joyful. I hope that your Easter celebrations included some sacred music that brought joy and peace to your soul.

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