Easter more commercialised and secularised than spiritual

The public celebrating Easter holiday at the Kenyatta public beach in Mombasa on Sunday. [Photo: Standard]

By Peter Oduor

Kenya: Grand Easter Sale. Up to 30 per cent off. Strictly cash only. Those are the words that scream at pedestrians along Kimathi Street in Nairobi from an electronics shop.

Two shops away, another banner reads: 30 per cent discount. Big Easter sale. Raffle prizes to be won.

Three shops away, another one reads: 10-30 per cent off. And it goes from one street to the next, from one hotel offering Easter special cuisine to the next hotel. Banks and airline companies in tow.

True meaning 

There would be no Christianity without Easter. Without Easter, Jesus would have been just another one of the false prophets.

Without Easter, resurrection would not have meant so much to the world as it does today. Without Easter, essentially, Christianity would be incomplete. But Easter happened; the crucifixion, execution, burial and resurrection of Jesus in three days. Thus cementing the position of Christianity in the world to date.

Easter is a Christian holiday whose celebration is held dear by many. Along the way, however, Easter acquired a price tag. It became commercialised and secularised just like Christmas.

After Easter, Mercy Mbau was yesterday at her work place. Her two colleagues had not reported. One was still at the Coast while the other should be flying in from a holiday in Kampala. Mercy was short on cash, so she stayed in Nairobi.

Have fun

“You can’t go to church or stay in the house for all those days. Few people went for prayer camps. Most people, however, went to some place to have fun and enjoy themselves.” She is right, owners of entertainment spots will agree with her.

Pastor Mark Mukinda of Life Church International in Nairobi says that commercialisation and secularism that are prevalent in the society today have hijacked the Christian holiday.

“Religious holidays are today about what to buy, where to go and how to have fun. Not what Easter or Christmas is about. People don’t understand the foundational doctrines behind those holidays,” he explains.

In his view, the spiritual aspects of these holidays have been downplayed and eroded so much that most people no longer see them as spiritual holidays. Because of that, it has become hard to propagate the spiritual aspects of the holidays.

For casino establishments and gambling dens, any holiday means more money.

A casino supervisor in Nairobi moans about low business over Easter, saying that many people travelled upcountry or abroad. But at the Coast where he worked for 10 years before coming to Nairobi, he knows that casino business is good during Easter and Christmas celebrations.

“The days leading up to Easter or Christmas are the best days for casino business at the coast. People come from all over the world, including local tourists. They stay through the holidays and leave a few days after. During such periods, business is good,” he said.

At IMAX Cinema Theatre in Nairobi on Saturday, Beth, an attendant, guided eager young and middle-aged people into the theatre hall. With a seating capacity of 300, she was looking at more than 240 people booked and waiting.

The movies on offer were all secular except for Noah, a film by Daren Aronofsky starring Russel Crowe. When asked about the people who turned up to watch the movies, Beth said they probably had been in church on Good Friday or would attend the Easter Sunday service.

She adds that most people today want “good experiences” and that you can’t get such at a church kesha. 

How did this change come about? One pastor in Nairobi believes that it is the churches that have made people not to take Christian holidays seriously.

“The gospel has been manipulated and diluted. Out of 10 churches in Nairobi, perhaps only three preach pure gospel as it is. People know this and it is the main reason why they would rather go to alternative entertainment spots like clubs, house parties or a family get together than go to church on Easter and be manipulated,” says Pastor Cathy Michael of Assemblies of Faith Ministries.

Don’t care

 She admits that such wayward churches don’t care about the value and importance of the religious holidays. To her, that is why Christians would rather spend Sh100,000 at the Coast during the four-day break than spend the three days doing God’s work and spreading the gospel or at least listen to God’s word.

A Christian holiday is no longer a time to reflect and get closer to God, or even a time to care for the less fortunate. Those were the main aspects of Christian holidays. Today they are not.