From the Archive: Galeano on Easter, and the Lack of Laughter in the Bible

Ljubljana 0356


Today’s Pic du Jour, the 447th straight, was taken at the central market in Ljubljana, Slovenia, three years ago, has an Easter theme and made me smile. Which in turn reminded me of this short piece, ‘Forbidden to Laugh,’ in Eduardo Galeano’s Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone, which I’m rereading this week and first posted about four years ago:

The ancient festivals that marked the cycles of nature now called Christmas and Easter are no longer homages to pagan gods, but rather solemn rituals that venerate the divinity who kidnapped their days and highjacked their symbols.

The Hilaria, a festival either inherited or invented by Rome, greeted the arrival of spring. The goddess Cybele would bathe in the river, calling for rain and fertility in the fields, while the Romans, dressed in bizarre clothes, laughed themselves silly, everyone made fun of everyone else, and there was no person or thing in the world undeserving of a good ribbing.

By decision of the Catholic Church, these pagan festivals, which celebrated with hilarity the resurrection of spring, was deemed to coincide each March, more or less, with the resurrection of Jesus, of whom the scriptures record not a single laugh.

And by decision of the Catholic Church, the Vatican was built in the exact location where the festival of glee used to reach its zenith. Now, in that vast plaza where the guffaws of the multitudes once resonated, we hear the grave voice of the pope reciting passages from the Bible, a book where no one ever laughs.

To those celebrating, Happy Easter. I hope you’re sharing a laugh.


  1. We had a great day laughing and having a good time with family and friends. The Church has become/always been a little too somber for my taste. I’m a recovering Catholic. Hope you had a fun day today.

    1. Same here, somewhat recovering. 🙂 I’ve had a lot of religion here in Quito this week, hitting extremes: from the moving and uplifting voices of the American Spiritual Ensemble, to the sombre and mostly peculiar Good Friday procession. The concert was phenomenal and life-affirming. The procession was interesting. In an academic sense. And fun to snap photos of.

  2. Hey Bob, I went glamping over Easter with some friends, had a few wines and laughed and laughed. You know how it is when your cheeks hurt from all the hilarity. I so enjoyed it and probably added a few years to my life! We will be going to Ljubljana and Piran shortly. We get to Trieste on 19th May and I have yet to plan that part of my itinerary – heading down to Croatia too – with only one week allocated for Slovenia. Do you know of any cheap accommodation in Piran and Ljubljana. I am looking at Airbnb where I have booked most of my accommodation for the rest of the trip (one month in Italy first).

    1. Great to hear, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. May and/or late spring is favorite time in Ljubljana. Airbnb will have plenty of very good options, especially for Ljubljana. As for Piran, I’m afraid I’m a bit out of touch there. I’ll drop a line to a few friends and get back to you when I hear from them.

  3. I had a great time visiting this city and would have loved to see some of the fantastic holiday events and decorations….another time in the future hopefully!

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