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The unsafe Easter

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Today I chipped a tooth on a hot cross bun. It was, admittedly, a bit old, a bit hard and stale, but even so, it’s not the kind of thing you expect to happen with a bun.

Perhaps I should have gone for the creme egg option. Or one of the many other treats that the shops are trying to sell us.

The shops are full of cakes and cards and wine and Easter presents. The Independent has its ten best Easter treats, including Easter florentines, Panetonne and a £25 Easter egg. They are desperate to turn Easter into Christmas – but to me it always feels a bit false. Because while Christmas is all joy and festivity, Easter has an undeniably dark side. The joy in Easter comes from a very singular claim: that Jesus rose from the dead. That’s not a claim that sits comfortably with everyone. We can all enjoy Christmas because it’s about babies and nativity plays and it’s a time for the children… But Easter? Easter is about a man who challenged the political powers of his day. Easter is about a man who was prepared to go to death and beyond. Easter is about a man who would not give in.

Easter is not a soft, gooey festival. It starts with a procession of the marginalised and the outcasts, develops into a protest against commercialised religion, before charging full tilt into the darkness and blood and gore of crucifixion. With its interrogations and whippings and death and even despair, Easter is not easily made safe.

Beyond that, of course, there is the real climax, the real point of it all: that burst of light on the Sunday morning, the earthquake rumble of the stone being rolled away, the sudden, wild dance of hope and delight. But before then, Easter takes us all into some very dark places.

That’s the point, of course. The light only works because of the darkness; the hope only shines so brightly because of the hopelessness that precedes it. Take the darkness out of Easter and you lose the glory; take the danger out and you lose the rescue.

So that’s why we should resist all attempts to sanitise Easter, to make it about spring or chicks or bunnies or chocolate. It’s actually about something much greater, much more challenging, much more dangerous than that. It’s not a safe festival. It’s about life, real life, life in all its fulness. And that is not the kind of life you can buy in the shops. Even with all the special Easter deals.

Easter is unsettling; Easter is surprising; Easter changes everything. Bite down thoughtlessly on it and you’re liable to chip a tooth.