IN Australia on Good Friday the pubs shut and you can't buy grog.

My British flatmates were utterly appalled. "I think it's nice," I said. "You think it's nice?" was spat back, with venom. "It's disgusting, pandering to Christian holidays that punish the many for the stupid beliefs of the few."

Two days later when she gnawed down on her chocolate eggs I bit my tongue.

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I mean, jeez, if she was that worried about suffering through a dry weekend - perhaps time to reflect on the crown of thorns, etc - she might have stocked up on the Thursday.

I love Easter. I love the notion of new starts. I can barely make it to Friday without resolving that Monday will have to be a new start so it's my festival of choice, more so than Christmas, the carnival of acquisition.

But both events are important, above and beyond their religious significance.

No matter how you feel about Christianity, if you take part in Christmas and Easter then you have to be a bit grateful to the forefathers for laying down the foundations of two nationwide opportunities to sit, reflect and eat a whack of chocolate.

In an open-all-hours, switched-on, revved-up culture, the chance to put the squeeze on shopping opportunities, spend time with family and shift work to the back burner en masse should be enshrined.

I only wish Jesus had enjoyed a few more significant events in his life, giving us the excuse for at least one or two more of these festivals of rest and relations. We've chosen birth and death to build our holidays around.

But surely there were a few more in-between bits we could utilise for the good of society, both members secular and sacred.

It's a shame he never married - that would give us another marvellous excuse to sack the office, get the glad rags on and think of the finer enjoyments of life for a few days at a time.

Ditto children, for the excuse to hold annual christening celebrations, for those of that ilk, and fruitcake and Champagne for the rest of us.

There's not enough time in life for reflection. The Christian holidays have that at their centre. Sadly, the secular have widened and perverted the definitions of Easter and Christmas to make them more about consumerism and less about rest.

If only we could make the religious holidays once a quarter and bring back an element of their original simplicity. That would be perfect. Perfect and with chocolate.