The Christian festival of Easter celebrates the
resurrection of Jesus Christ. The spring festival has its roots in the
Jewish Passover, which commemorates Israel's deliverance
from the bondage of Egypt, and in the Christian reinterpretation of its
meaning after the crucifixion of Jesus during the Passover of AD c.30
and the proclamation of his resurrection three days later.
Early Christians observed Easter on the same day as Passover
(14-15 Nisan, a date governed by a lunar calendar). In the 2d
century, the Christian celebration was transferred to the Sunday
following the 14-15 Nisan, if that day fell on a weekday. Originally,
the Christian Easter was a unitive celebration, but in the 4th century
Good Friday became a separate commemoration of the death of Christ,
and Easter was thereafter devoted exclusively to the
resurrection. According to the Venerable Bede, the name Easter is derived
from the pagan spring festival of the Anglo- Saxon goddess Eostre,
and many folk customs associated with Easter
(for example, Easter eggs) are of pagan origin.
Easter Day is currently determined as the first Sunday after the full
moon on or after March 21. The Eastern Orthodox churches,
however, follow the Julian rather than the Gregorian calendar, so their
celebration usually falls several weeks later than the Western Easter.
Easter is preceded by the period of preparation called Lent.
For Christians, Lent is a 40-day penitential period of prayer and fasting
that precedes Easter. In the Western church, observance of Lent begins
6 1/2 weeks prior to Easter on Ash Wednesday; (Sundays are excluded).
In the Eastern church the period extends over 7 weeks because both
Saturdays and Sundays are excluded. Formerly a severe fast was
prescribed: only one full meal a day was allowed, and meat, fish, eggs,
and milk products were forbidden. Today, however, prayer and works of
charity are emphasized. Lent has been observed since the 4th century.
In the Western church, Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent
and the seventh Wednesday before Easter. Its name comes from the
practice of placing ashes on the foreheads of worshipers to symbolize
death and sorrow for sin. In the Orthodox church,
Lent begins on a Monday rather than on Ash Wednesday.
Good Friday is the Christian commemoration of the death
of Jesus Christ, observed on the Friday before Easter.
Originally, it was a day of fasting in preparation for the
unitive celebration of the death- resurrection-exaltation of Jesus;
no liturgy was held on that day. In the 4th century, at Jerusalem, a
procession was staged from Gethsemane to the sanctuary of the cross,
followed by readings about the passion. This was the beginning
of the Good Friday observance as it is now known.
In the Catholic tradition, the liturgy of the day consists of reading
the passion, the ceremony of the veneration of the cross, and communion
from the sacrament consecrated the day before. The service of preaching
on the seven last words, of Jesuit origin, has become popular in Protestantism.
The Easter Egg
Of all the symbols associated with Easter the egg, the symbol
of fertility and new life, is the most identifiable. The customs
and traditions of using eggs have been associated with
Easter for centuries
Originally Easter eggs were painted with bright colours
to represent the sunlight of spring and were used in Easter-egg
rolling contests or given as gifts. After they were colored and etched
with various designs the eggs were exchanged by lovers and romantic
admirers, much the same as valentines. In medieval time eggs were
traditionally given at Easter to the servants. In Germany eggs were
given to children along with other Easter gifts
The Easter Bunny
The Easter bunny has its origin in pre-Christian fertility lore.
The Hare and the Rabbit were the most fertile animals known
and they served as symbols of the new life during the Spring season.
The bunny as an Easter symbol seems to have it's origins in
Germany, where it was first mentioned in German writings
in the 1500s. The first edible Easter bunnies were made in Germany
during the early 1800s. And were made of pastry and sugar
The Easter bunny was introduced to American folklore by the German
settlers who arrived in the Pennsylvania Dutch country during
the 1700s. The arrival of the "Oschter Haws" was considered "childhood's
greatest pleasure" next to a visit from Christ-Kindel on Christmas Eve.
The children believed that if they were good the "Oschter Haws"
would lay a nest of colored eggs.
The children would build their nest in a secluded place in
the home, the barn or the garden. Boys would use their caps and girls
their bonnets to make the nests . The use of elaborate Easter
baskets would come later as the tradition of the
Easter bunny spread through out the country.
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