Easter is the most important religious event for Christians. They celebrate their belief that Jesus rose from the dead three days after his crucifixion. Many non-Christians also celebrate this holiday as well focusing on ancient customs and traditions, and welcoming spring.
Easter, like Christmas, is a blend of paganism and Christianity. The word Easter is derived from Eostre (also known as Ostara an ancient Anglo-Saxon goddess. She symbolized the rebirth of the day at dawn and the rebirth of life in the spring. The arrival of spring was celebrated all over the world long before the religious meaning became associated with Easter. Now, Easter celebrates the rebirth of Christ.
For Christians, Easter is the culmination of events during Holy Week beginning with Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday reflects the return of Jesus to Jerusalem. Maundy Thursday commemorates the Last Supper of Christ, and Good Friday remembers the crucifixion of Jesus. Easter Sunday celebrates his resurrection after his death.
Easter falls on the first Sunday on or following the spring Equinox after the full moon. The date has been calculated in this way since 325 AD.
Since ancient times many cultures have associated eggs with the universe. They were used in ancient spring festivals to represent the rebirth of life. As Christianity took hold, the egg began to symbolize the rebirth of man rather than nature.
Eggs have been been dyed, decorated, and painted by the Romans, Gauls, Persians, and the Chinese. A Polish folktale tells of the Virgin Mary giving eggs to soldiers at the cross while she pleaded with them to be merciful. As her tears dropped, they spattered droplets on the eggs mottling them with a myriad of colors.
The Faberge egg is the best known of all the decorated eggs. Peter Faberge made intricate, delicately decorated eggs. In 1883, the Russian Czar commissioned Faberge to make a special egg for his wife.
The Easter Bunny is a cute little rabbit that hides eggs for children to find on Easter. But where did he come from? The origin is uncertain. The rabbit symbolized fertility in the rites of spring. In a German book published in 1682, a tale is told of a bunny laying eggs and hiding them in the garden for good little children to find. The Germans also created the first consumable bunnies in the 1800s primary made of sugar and pastry.
The Easter bonnet and new clothes on Easter symbolizes the end of the dreary winter and the beginning of the fresh, new spring. At the turn of the century, it was popular for families to stroll to church and home again to show off their “Sunday best”.
The Easter basket shows roots in a Catholic custom. Baskets filled with breads, cheeses, hams, and other foods for Easter dinner were taken to mass Easter morning to be blessed. This evolved in time to baskets filled with chocolate eggs, jellybeans, toys, and stuffed bunnies for children left behind by the Easter Bunny.
Today, children wake up to find that the Easter Bunny has hidden a basket filled with candy and toys. Children color and decorate hard-boiled eggs either on Easter or the day before. Egg hunts are popular at the home level as well as community egg hunts at the local park. At home the eggs made be the hard-boiled decorated eggs or plastic eggs filled with treats. Community egg hunts typically use plastic eggs or chocolate eggs spread out in a grassy area.
Easter dinner is a feast with lamb, ham, or fish and spring vegetables, potatoes, and special breads. Deviled eggs are a popular appetizer. Easter brunch is also quite popular.
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Related Celebrations: National Hot Cross Buns Day
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