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Easter

Easter is one of the biggest festivals celebrated by Christians. Easter marks the resurrection of Jesus Christ - The Son of God. It is a day where most Christians young, old, rich, poor, Eastern, Western, and of all races come together to rejoice that Jesus is their savior.

Our modern Easter traditions are derivatives of pagan traditions. No one knows for certain where the name Easter originates. People have accepted that it comes from the goddess Eostre, the ancient goddess of spring and fertility. In this mythology, Eostre returns to Earth after a long and cold winter. Therefore, people would celebrate the beginning of spring as the return of Eostre. This is one of the ways Easter gets its pagan roots.

However, some people argue that it comes from the Latin term hebdomada alba. This word describes the week leading up to Easter. It's translated as the white week. The word white references the robes Christians wear when they are being baptized. The phrase was translated into Old High German inaccurately. It is translated as esostarum. As time went by, that word was changed to Easter.

Not all cultures refer to the day of celebrating the resurrection as Easter. In Spain and France, they use words that are derivatives of the Hebrew word for Passover. They do this because Jesus' certification and resurrection occurs after he finished celebrating Passover.

When Is Easter?

Many people do not know why the date of Easter moves from year to year. The full moon between the dates of March 22 and April 25 determines the date of Easter. The first written account in determining the timing of Easter dates back to 725 A.D. On March 21st, the vernal equinox occurs. Easter is the Sunday that follows the first full moon. This date can vary depending on the branch of Christianity that is practiced. Orthodox Christians use the Julian calendar while Western churches use the Gregorian calendar to determine the date. There is a 13 day difference between the calendars. On the Julian calendar, March 21st is April 3 on the Gregorian calendar. Therefore, Orthodox Christians will celebrate Easter between the dates of April 4 and May 8.

How long do Christians celebrate Easter?

This depends on the branch of Christianity. Some groups such as the Puritans, Quakers and Jehovah Witnesses do not celebrate Easter because of its pagan roots. Some denominations of Christianity practice Lent. Lent represents the 40 days and 40 nights that Jesus spent in the wilderness. Christians are supposed to let go of something they hold dear during this time. Orthodox Christians cut all entertainments and any activity that can be defined as non-essential. Most Western Christians forgo only one thing or behavior. For example, someone might cut out drinking alcohol for Lent or someone might stop cursing or watching television.

Lent

Lent is about reflection and penance. During this time, Christians are asking God to forgive them and save them. Without Lent, celebrations such as Mardi Gras would not be necessary. Mardi Gras is the last day before Lent. It's designed for you to cleanse yourself before you participate in seeking penance. In other words, it is the day to party before you commit to fasting. Ash Wednesday marks the first day of Lent. Lent will last until Easter Sunday. Not all Christians participate in Lent. It is a tradition held by Catholics and Orthodox Christians.

The last week of Lent is referred to as the Holy week. Palm Sunday kicks off this week. It is the Sunday before Easter. During Palm Sunday, Christians have a moveable feast. This is to celebrate Jesus' entry into Jerusalem. Wednesday of Holy week is referred to as Spy Wednesday or Holy Wednesday. This day signifies Judas betrayal of Jesus. Spy Wednesday is followed by Maundy Thursday. This is the day of the Last Supper. Good Friday is the day of Christ's crucifixion. The day is observed by most Christians.

The first celebration of Easter is the Easter Vigil. The Easter Vigil is a celebration that happens on Holy Saturday after dust and ends after sunrise on Easter day. During this celebration, people are baptized and partake in full communion.

Easter Day

Easter day starts the Easter week. Some Lutheran churches have a three day festival that starts on Easter and end on Tuesday. Many cultures celebrate Easter for two days. This is called Easter Monday. Countries like Canada treat Easter Monday as a public holiday.

Easter Celebrations

How do they celebrate Easter around the world? In the United States, many protestant churches have a similar service for Easter Vigil called Sunrise service. It usually starts around 5:30 or 6:00 AM. People sing their praises to God as they watch the sun come up. When the sun is up, they partake in communion and prayer. This service is usually followed by a fellowship breakfast.

This is usually followed by American traditions such as an Easter egg hunt and the giving of gift baskets. Dying hard boiled eggs for Easter egg hunts and Easter baskets are a tradition that is usually carried out on Good Friday.

Easter is not a public holiday in the United States. Other countries such as Canada, Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden celebrate Easter as a public holiday. In Poland, church bells ring at sunrise to signify that Christ has risen. Another Western tradition includes lighting the Paschal candle. The candle symbolizes a risen Jesus Christ.

In Greece, they cook mageiritsa, a lamb stew, to celebrate Easter. They also have a tradition of dying eggs. However, they dye the eggs red to symbolize the Blood of Christ. They refer to Easter week as Bright week to celebrate that Jesus has risen. The highlight of Eastern Christians traditions is the Crucession. This is a procession with the cross.

Roots of Modern Easter Traditions

Why do we eat ham for Easter? Just like the turkey is the staple entree for Thanksgiving, the ham is the favored entree for Easter dinner. Many people find this strange because the consumption of pork is prohibited by Judaism and Islam. At Jesus' last supper, the lamb was the entree. The tradition of ham over lamb comes from a Northen European tradition. During the autumn, Europeans would cure meat. In the winter, they will eat heavy meals. After the vernal equinox, their objective is to fast and clear their bodies of the heavy food storage. When they are done fasting, they celebrate by eating the last of the cured meat. The ham was the last thing left. As the pagan traditions mixed with the Easter celebration, ham becomes the entree of choice for Western civilization.

Easter candy also has a pagan origin. Shaping candy into eggs is another way to celebrate the growth and new life associated with Spring. Many pagans gave egg shaped candy as gifts to one another. That is why we give chocolate bunnies and candy to celebrate Easter today.

Easter Eggs and Bunnies

Why are eggs and bunnies symbols for Easter? The origin of the Easter egg lies in the pagan celebrations. In Germany, Eostre is called Ostara. The eggs symbolize fertility. Spring is a time for new life. The flowers bloom, and the grass grows.

During these celebrations, the rabbit is sacrificed to pay tribute to her. The rabbit is chosen because of its ability reproduce at a rapid rate. In some cultures, it was forbidden to eat rabbit. However, in some cultures, if people were having fertility issues, philosophers recommended they eat rabbit.

The white rabbit has been depicted with the Virgin Mary. This symbolizes the triumph over lust and the flesh. This ties in to the practice of Lent and the Christians need to become more Christ-like. In the 40 days in the wilderness, Jesus is tempted by the devil, but he does not succumb. He triumphs over all temptations. Thus, the Easter bunny is born.

The Easter Bunny

The first documentation of the Easter bunny comes from the 1500s in Germany. The Easter Bunny is a result of the Catholicism, taking over Germany. The pagan sacrifices of the bunny get intertwined with the celebration of Easter. In 1680, someone wrote a story that incorporated the idea that both eggs and bunnies represented fertility. Instead of the two being individual ways to honor Eostre, they are given a more connected relationship. It is the rabbit's job to lay eggs and hide them.

This folklore did not reach the United States until the 1700s when the Germans settled into the Pennsylvania Dutch territory. As the story of the rabbits laying eggs grew, people started building nests for the rabbits to put the eggs. That is where the tradition of Easter basket originates.

Today, Easter has become very mainstream. You have retail stores selling everything from egg shaped marshmallows to toy filled Easter baskets, and chocolate bunnies. No matter how you celebrate Easter, many people remember that Jesus is the reason for the season.

Society | Holidays


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