Turkey, panettone, salmon: Christmas is back!

Feast your eyes: Supermarkets are recycling their Christmas adverts. © Edge

Do we need more feast days? Easter is now becoming a second Christmas, complete with the trimmings. And why not? We work harder than ever. Surely we need more time when the world switches off?

Go to the supermarket this Easter weekend, and you might be forgiven for thinking that Christmas has come early. Iceland is selling turkey crowns alongside the traditional lamb. Aldi’s hot cross buns have an orange and cranberry twist. In Waitrose, Christmas panettone has been baked in the shape of an egg.

Charles Banks, co-founder of The Food People, told The Telegraph that supermarkets were trying to be competitive by selling food that customers “associate with celebration, family time and relaxation”.

Others have gone down a different route, pushing dairy-free and vegan chocolates, while Waitrose targeted millennials with a chocolate egg in the shape of an avocado.

Despite declining church attendance in the UK, Easter celebrations are clearly growing. Britons are expected to spend almost £900 million on Easter eggs and gifts, up 35% from last year.

Of course, Easter is not just about the chocolate. It is a Christian festival that celebrates the Resurrection of Jesus, on the third day after he was crucified.

Easter is one of the most important Christian festivals, and a celebration of new life. Around the same time, Jewish people celebrate the freedom of Israelites from slavery at Passover.

In medieval times, feasts were a way to break free of life’s daily drudgery. Catholicism, in particular, has many festivals — known as feast days — throughout the year.

But in 21st-century Britain, this tradition has largely died out. Christmas and Easter are the only major public holidays, and there are fewer bank holidays than any other country in Europe.

Meanwhile, technology and isolation are making modern life more stressful for many people.

Do we need to rediscover our love of big feasts?

Eggsistential crisis

Yes, say some. Celebrations are an excuse to bring communities together, or at least families and friends. The word “feast” comes from the Latin for “joyous”, and that is what the rich food and colourful decorations of Easter are all about. You do not have to be religious to feel rejuvenated by them. It is simply good to get away from the routine of everyday life.

You are missing the point, argue others. Spending and eating more during the holidays is not enough to fill the hole that many people feel. Easter, and other feast days, should be spiritual above all else. They are about feeling closer to God, or at least reflecting on life, love and the passage of time. The answer to the stress of modern life is not to overindulge a few times a year; it is about finding a rich inner life.

You Decide

  1. Should the UK introduce more “feast days” like Easter and Christmas for people to look forward to?
  2. What is the best antidote to stress: more time having fun with other people, or more time to meditate and work on yourself?

Activities

  1. Imagine you have been put in charge of creating a new public holiday in Britain. What time of the year would it be? What would it celebrate? And, perhaps most importantly, what would it be called? Discuss your ideas with the rest of your class.
  2. Choose a religious holiday that you have celebrated in the past. Create a video, cartoon or poem which retells the story behind it.

Some People Say...

“A secular religion would build temples, and anoint feast days, to disappointment.”

Alain de Botton

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Good Friday, which marks the day that Jesus died on the cross, is celebrated tomorrow (March 30). It is followed by Easter Sunday and Easter Monday. These dates change each year, along with the Jewish festival of Passover, which the Bible says was happening around the time of Jesus’s death. Passover is celebrated on the first full moon after the vernal equinox.
What do we not know?
What it is about modern life that is causing stress levels and feelings of isolation to rise among the general population in Britain. However, many theories have been posed, including: the break-up of communities, the constant presence of technology and social media, a loss of religion and spirituality, globalisation and the demands of capitalism, and being out-of-touch with nature.

Word Watch

Panettone
A sweet, Italian bread.
The Food People
A “food trends” agency.
Avocado
The egg has a chocolate stone in the centre, and a chocolate casing. The green “flesh” in the middle is white chocolate dyed green. It has been sold out on the Waitrose website for a week.
Declining
Last year, a study of data from the British Social Attitudes survey found that the proportion of people who identified as Christian declined from 55% to 43% between 1983 and 2015.
35%
According to a survey by Finder.com, Britons will spend £892.6 million Easter this year, compared to £575 million in 2017.
Fewer
The UK (along with Hungary and the Netherlands) have just eight public holidays. Finland is the most generous, with 15 public holidays, followed by Spain with 14.
Stressful
Rates of anxiety and depression among workers have risen by a third in just four years, according to research by the UK Council for Psychotherapy, published by The Independent in October last year.
Latin
From the Latin word festus.

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