What is Easter?
Easter is the most important and oldest festival of Christians, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ and held (in the Western Church) between March 21 and April 25, on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the northern spring equinox.
The Orthodox date for Easter Sunday often occurs at a later date than the date observed by many western churches. The holiday is also known as Pascha.
Constantine wanted Christianity to be totally separated from Judaism and did not want Easter to be celebrated on the Jewish Passover. The Council of Nicea accordingly required the feast of the resurrection to be celebrated on a Sunday and never on the Jewish Passover.
Many Ancient cultures viewed eggs as a symbol of life.
The Easter egg is hard-boiled and often dyed red to symbolize the blood of Christ. It was an important symbol connected with spring fertility rituals in many early civilizations. Many Greek Orthodox Christians rap their eggs against their friends’ eggs and the owner of the last uncracked egg is considered lucky.
In addition, in some areas, eggs were forbidden during Lent; therefore, they were a delicacy at Easter.
Some speculate that early missionaries or knights of the Crusade may have been responsible for bringing the tradition to the West.
Another important symbol associated with Easter is the lamb.
The lamb comes from the Jewish Passover, where each family killed a lamb as a sacrifice. When Christ became the Passover Lamb for everyone, the lamb became a symbol for His sacrifice. It is often depicted with a banner that bears a cross, and it is known as the Agnus Dei, meaning “Lamb of God” in Latin.
Easter word origins are complex. The word may have come from the Anglo-Saxon Eeostre or Eastre – a Teutonic goddess of spring and fertility.
The Norse eostur, eastur, or ostara, meant “the season of the growing sun” or “the season of new birth.”
The early Latin name for the week of Easter was hebdomada alba or “white week,” while the Sunday after Easter day was called dominica in albis from the white robes of those who had been newly baptized. The word alba is Latin both for white and dawn.
The German plural word for dawn is ostarun. From ostarun we get the German Ostern and the English Easter.
The hare is an ancient symbol of fertility and for the moon. The date of Easter depends on the moon. This may have helped the hare to be absorbed into Easter celebrations. Bunnies live in burrows and when they come out of their holes in spring, it reminds us of Jesus’ empty tomb. Easter baskets were originally like bunny nests in Germany. Bunnies, pastries, and candy also came to the New World with German immigrants.
The Easter lily is another new addition to Easter celebrations. Throughout the years, painters and sculptors used the white Madonna lily to symbolize purity and innocence, frequently referring to Mary.
The Easter lily is a rather new addition to Easter celebrations.
In the 1880s, Mrs. Thomas Sargent brought Bermuda lily bulbs to Philadelphia. A local nurseryman, William Harris, saw the lilies and introduced them to trade. They were easy to force into bloom in time for the Easter season. The Bermuda lily, now the familiar Easter lily, spread throughout the country.
Easter means faith and family.
As the children grow older, Easter egg hunts, colorful baskets full of candy, and all the commercial festivities aren’t as important to us.
We prepare for Easter with Mardi Gras pancake dinners, Ash Wednesday fasting, and Lent daily reading.
Holy Week begins with palms waving, processions and parades, shouts of “Hosanna!” and celebrations, remembering Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem.
Holy Week should be about inclusion into the Kingdom. Jesus wanted it that way and we have taken his idea of Kingdom as legalism – church attendance and excluding those who don’t look like us, talk like us, think like us.
Communion is inclusion.
Eucharist is thanks.
How do we express thanks and inclusion on this holiest of Christian holidays?
Many churches offer Ash Wednesday service throughout the day or at least several times during the day, to accommodate busy schedules.
There are special Bible studies during Lent.
We read Bible and missionary stories every morning and evening the year-round, and I just choose different ones during Lent.
When the kids were old enough, we sometimes attended sunrise Easter church services.
I like teaching and discussing The Trinity. Visuals make it special for kids and Sunday school classes.
Learning about and planting seeds are great lessons for children and I often tie in stories about our faith and the teaching of Jesus and saints.
Resurrection Eggs are great visual tools for young children to understand The Stations of the Cross and The Passion. But I don’t like to focus on punitive atonement.
I’m still evolving in my faith and searching for good resources to teach my children well.
We’ve lived in many places and celebrated Easter differently with our friends, neighbors, and churches.
Our Utah church held a large pancake dinner on Mardi Gras.
Our neighborhood in Utah held a huge Easter egg hunt that was like trick-or-treating, with each yard throwing out or hiding candy and eggs and toys for all the children in their front yards. We still remember it fondly.
The kids have never enjoyed large Easter egg hunts, so that’s an easy event to forgo.
We love reading books about Easter – Jesus, bunnies, eggs, and springtime!
We made natural Easter egg dye one year. It was fun, but not as vibrant as we would have liked.
My husband and children don’t really like hard boiled eggs that much, so it’s wasteful to dye many eggs.
We made cascarones another year and that was great fun!
We like to learn about Easter traditions and celebrations around the world.
Brunch is popular on Easter Sunday. We often have a lovely special dinner of lamb or ham on Sunday. I love deviled eggs!
Since we lived in Germany, we make lamb cake – a light pound cake in the shape of a lamb, covered with powdered sugar.
How do you celebrate Easter?
Christ is Risen!
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