The Lenten Season typically ends with the second-busiest Sunday of the year in the pews, with only Christmas bringing more parishioners to Catholic churches. According to survey data from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), just over half of all self-identified Catholics attend Mass during Holy Week. CARA estimates that average Mass attendance in the United States, as measured by Gallup, hit a peak of 62 percent in 1958. This means that even on Easter, Mass attendance is now well below that of a typical Sunday some six decades ago.
St. Matthew Catholic Church in Charlotte, N.C., profiled in America in “Lessons on Evangelization From the Largest Parish in the United States,” will hold 13 Masses on Easter Sunday, in addition to the Easter Vigil. Antoinette Usher, the facilities manager for St. Matthew, expects that the church will attract at least 18,000 worshippers for Easter, or about 5,000 more than the Mass attendance in an average week.
The busy season happens well before Holy Week for the growers of Easter lily bulbs, which produce over 10 million lilies for altars and other holiday decorations each year. (See “Consider the Lilies” in this issue of America.) A more secular aspect of the holiday is the Easter basket full of candy. In some recent years, Easter season has outpaced Halloween in terms of how much Americans spend on sweets, with Valentine’s Day a strong third.
Sources for infographic: Mass attendance from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA); Easter traditions from WalletHub; Easter candy from CNBC and an Omaha World-Herald national poll; Google Trends.