ACT: An Easter for all religions, and none

For many, Easter is a time for family, catching up with friends and enjoying a relaxing few days off.

For others, it is a strictly religious affair.

Church halls swell at this time of year, to accommodate those who observe religious rituals on special occasions.

But while chocolate eggs, hot cross buns and bunny rabbits are rife on supermarket shelves, Australia is becoming a much more secular society.

Despite this, it seems we still mark Easter, a fervently religious holiday, with symbols of the cross and eggs representing Jesus’ new life.

The idea of a bunny, however, has no Christian symbolism at all (best to buy the native bilby instead).

The percentage of people identifying as Christian of some type or other is still high at 52 per cent.

In the last census in 2016 more than 5.29 million people, or 22 per cent, identified as Catholic.

Another 3.1 million (13 per cent) said they were Anglicans.

Other Christians added up to 3.8 million (16 per cent).

The list of other religions in Australia is long, but the numbers are relatively small – Islam has 604,000 followers, Buddhism 563,000, Hindus 440,000 and the Jewish religion records 91,000 Australian followers.

There are more than seven million Australians who responded to the census by saying they had no religion. That represents more than 30 per cent of the population.

In the ACT in 2016, that number was above the Australian average. Those who said they had no religion made up 36.6 per cent of the population. A further 8.6 per cent did not answer the question.

And yet we still acknowledge and celebrate the Easter season, be it with church or chocolate eggs. An extra-long weekend is, after all, a gift for all.

But these days people are just as likely to spend their Easter weekend at the beach, shopping for homewares or sitting in traffic jams as they return from a long weekend adventure.

The National Folk Festival attracts thousands every year.

There will be many Australians sitting in churches on Sunday, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ more than 2000 years ago after he died on the cross on Good Friday.

It doesn’t hurt anyone to consider the Christian message that the holiday inspires – that we should love one another, show compassion and care for the poor and outcast and aspire to peace.

These things are almost universal aspirations across humanity, and worth taking a minute, between unwrapping those chocolate eggs or bilbies, to think about on Sunday.


Valentina Baxter, 4, looks for Easter eggs at the Great Corin Forest Easter Egg Hunter of 2019 on Saturday. Photo: Dion Georgopoulos

Image Source