A friend on Facebook recently posted a comment that referenced the fact that Easter, like Christmas, has certain roots in a pagan reference that was appropriated by Christians only some centuries after the Christian era had begun (for those who are wondering, the name “Easter” is said to reference a pagan goddess). Unlike Christmas, however, which was given a name with explicitly Christian meaning, the ambiguous name “Easter” seems to have stuck. The post wonders why movements to call the Sunday commemorating the resurrection of Christ “Resurrection Sunday” never seem to have taken hold.
There’s something to be said for the staying power of tradition, but I don’t feel that “it’s because we’ve always done it that way” is an adequate explanation. I can’t be certain of course, but I wonder if it arises out of an ironic desire to keep the observance special. Here’s my reasoning. If you go to almost any Christian church, on almost any Sunday, you will hear about the resurrection. The same cannot be said of, say, Christ’s birth. In this sense, every Sunday is “Resurrection Sunday.”
However, as I have heard said on a number of occasions, there is a sense in which if you don’t make a specific effort to do something, because you plan on doing that thing all the time, you often end up not doing that thing at all. We demonstrate what we value, in part, through the special observance of it. Although every Sunday may well be “Resurrection Sunday,” only one Sunday is “Easter.” Thus, we are reminded to pay special attention to the meaning of Christ’s resurrection and the hope that it gives us, which in turn carries through the rest of the year, to the point where we can scarcely stop talking about it during our worship gatherings.
I’ll be quick to admit that I have no research to back this theory up. In fact, I'm aware that there are Christian groups that don't celebrate Easter (or any other Christian holiday) specifically because "every day is the Lord's day." Although I personally think that annual observances and traditional rhythms are important, I'll stop short of accusing them of having forgotten the significance of the resurrection. What might be necessary for some Christians (including myself) may not be necessary for all. And I’m not really against calling this day “Resurrection Sunday” if one feels that such a name recaptures the Christian emphasis of the event. So long as Christ’s resurrection is remembered, and remembered often, I’m happy. That’s the priority of this holiday. Not what name we choose to give it.