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Celebrating Easter

8 April 2010 No Comment

In Christian countries Easter is celebrated as the religious holiday commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the son of God.

But the celebrations of Easter have many customs and legends that are pagan in origin and have nothing to do with Christianity.

Some scholars believe the name Easter is thought to come from the Scandinavian “Ostra” and the Teutonic “Ostern” or “Eastre,” both Goddesses of mythology signifying spring and fertility whose festival was celebrated on the day of the vernal equinox.
The Easter rabbit and Easter Eggs represent a symbol of fertility. The eggs painted with bright colours represented the sunlight of spring, and used in Easter-egg rolling contests or given as gifts.
The Christian celebration of Easter embodies a number of converging traditions with emphasis on the relation of Easter to the Jewish festival of Passover, or Pesach, from which is derived Pasch, another name used by Europeans for Easter.

Passover is an important feast in the Jewish calendar which is celebrated for 8 days and commemorates the flight and freedom of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.
The early Christians, many of whom were of Jewish origin, were brought up in the Hebrew tradition and regarded Easter as a new feature of the Passover festival, a commemoration of the advent of the Messiah as foretold by the prophets.
Easter is observed by the churches of the West on the first Sunday following the full moon that occurs on or following the spring equinox (March 2I).

So Easter became a “movable” feast which can occur as early as March 22 or as late as April 25.
Christian churches in the East which were closer to the birthplace of the new religion and in which old traditions were strong, observe Easter according to the date of the Passover festival.
Easter is at the end of the Lenten season, which covers a forty-six-day period that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends with Easter.

The Lenten season itself comprises forty days, as the six Sundays in Lent are not actually a part of Lent. Sundays are considered a commemoration of Easter Sunday and have always been excluded from the Lenten fast.

The Lenten season is a period of penitence in preparation for the highest festival of the church year, Easter.
Holy Week, the last week of Lent, begins with the observance of Palm Sunday.     Palm Sunday takes its name from Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem where the crowds laid palms at his feet.

Holy Thursday commemorates the Last Supper, which was held the evening before the Crucifixion.

Friday in Holy Week is the anniversary of the Crufixion, the day that Christ was crucified and died on the cross.
Holy week and the Lenten season end with Easter Sunday, the day of resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The resurrection day

Some interesting Easter Facts:

* In medieval times a festival of egg throwing was held in church, during which the priest would throw a hard-boiled egg to one of the choirboys. It was then tossed from one choirboy to the next and whoever held the egg when the clock struck 12 was the winner and retained the egg.
* The first Easter baskets were made to look like bird’s nests.

* The traditional act of painting eggs is called Pysanka.

* To Egyptians, the egg was a sacred token of the renovation of mankind after the Flood.

* The egg has always been a symbol of the Resurrection to Christians.

* The date of Passover is variable as it is dependent on the phases of the moon, and thus Easter is also a movable feast.

* The custom of giving eggs at Easter time has been traced back to Egyptians, Persians, Gauls, Greeks and Romans, to whom the egg was a symbol of life.

* Easter is now celebrated (in the words of the Book of Common Prayer) on the first Sunday after the full moon which happens on or after March 21, the Spring Equinox.

* Some Churches still keep up the old tradition of using evergreens – symbolic of eternal life – embroidered in red on white, or woven in straw, but most now prefer displays of flowers in the spring colours of green, yellow and white.

* In the United States, Easter is celebrated with a large Easter Egg Hunt by children on the White House Lawn.

* To the Jews, the egg marked the time of their departure from the land of Egypt.

* By tradition, it was obligatory (or at least lucky) for churchgoers to wear some bright new piece of clothing – at least an Easter bonnet, if not a complete new outfit.

* Easter Bonnets are a throw back to the days when the people denied themselves the pleasure of wearing finery for the duration of Lent.

The Easter Bunny waiting for kids at Centurion Mall

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