Why it is celebrated and meaning
It’s that time of year again – stores brimming with brightly painted, chocolate-filled eggs, cute bunnies popping off store shelves, vibrant floral decorations all around and summer beckoning. tip of his nose – it’s Easter!
As the churches are decorated to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, children and adults are all ready to exchange gifts and munch on hot rolls. The week-long festivities ring in the holiday spirit, with mass prayers beginning on Good Friday and ending on Easter Sunday. This year, the day falls on April 17.
For those who follow the Christian faith, Easter Sunday marks the victory of good over evil, rebirth and that the truth will prevail, while pagan celebrations mark the change of seasons.
Here’s everything we need to know about Easter Sunday
Easter Sunday marks the resurrection of Jesus Christ after being crucified. According to the New Testament, Jesus was condemned to death by crucifixion, for claiming to be the “Son of God”.
According to the Bible, one of the closest disciples of Jesus Christ, Judas, kissed him and this gave a signal to the armed crowd, which was sent by Jewish priests and old people. Christ said he would not rebel against the Jews or protest his arrest. He even ordered one of his followers, who struck his sword to put it back. After his arrest, he was tried by the Sanhedrin, the highest Jewish council of law. After being found guilty of religious blasphemy, Jesus Christ was taken to Pontius Pilate, who gave in to the crowd’s demands to crucify Christ.
His body was taken down from the cross, wrapped in linen and placed in a tomb belonging to Joseph of Arimathea. It was then sealed with a massive stone. This day is marked as Good Friday.
It is believed that after three days the angels rolled away the stone and Jesus Christ rose from the grave and visited his disciples. This day is celebrated every year as Easter Sunday. Since Christ rose from the tomb, it is also known as Resurrection Sunday.
Easter rituals and meaning
The Church’s lunar calendar determines the date of Easter each year, which falls on the Sunday after the Easter full moon. However, several countries, such as Greece, with the Eastern Orthodox Church continue to predict the date of Easter based on the Julian calendar.
Previously, in the West, the resurrection of Christ was celebrated on the first day of the week, Sunday. Since then, Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the 14th day of the month of Nisan. Easter Sunday also marks the end of the “Passion of Christ”, which is a 40-day period of fasting called Lent. The Sunday before Easter is called Palm Sunday and marks the arrival of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem.
Easter week, known as “Holy Week”, also includes other important days like Maundy Thursday, the day Christ had the Last Supper with his disciples before the crucifixion. The Saturday following Good Friday is also considered ‘Holy Saturday’ by many and people attend religious services called the Easter Vigil.
Easter also has pagan connotations and is closely associated with the Jewish holiday of Passover, which is also celebrated around the same time.
With spring and summer elements added to the concept, the celebration of Easter also signifies fruitfulness, rebirth and new beginnings. The word “Easter” is also said to derive from the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring and fertility, Eostre.
Easter eggs and Easter bunnies
Families celebrate Easter Sunday with their own traditions and customs, but the basic rituals are almost the same. As a precursor to Christmas, it gives people the opportunity to spend quality time together and enjoy the holidays.
Special treats like carrot cake, hot rolls, sweet breads, eggs, ham, lamb and spring peas make Easter Sunday a hearty affair. The star attraction being the chocolate filled Easter egg.
It is believed that the custom of having the Easter egg probably started in ancient times when the Church did not allow Christians to have eggs during Holy Week. However, today the exchange of Easter eggs has new dimensions. On Sunday mornings, children receive delicious, brightly colored eggs filled with sweets and treats.
The making of decorated eggs was first recorded in the 13th century. According to Orthodox tradition, these eggs are painted red to symbolize the blood of Christ.
To make things more fun and lively, events like Easter egg hunts, Easter egg decorating, egg rolling and many more are held.
Interestingly, Protestant regions of Europe started the tradition of the Easter Bunny. Although it started in the 17th century, it was not popular until the 19th century. According to legends, Easter bunnies are believed to lay the eggs and decorate them in secret. In the United States, these Easter bunnies are believed to fill children’s baskets with toys and candy.
Hero and background image: Courtesy of Gabe Pierce/ @gaberce/ Unsplash