Easter Celebrations

Easter is the most important of the Christian religious holidays – celebrating the joyous resurrection of Jesus Christ from the tomb after his crucifixion. There are many ways that Christian cultures celebrate Easter, let’s take a look at some.

The most important celebratory event on Eastern Sunday is a sunrise service, to rejoice and sing praise to the risen Lord. The service is a very happy one with lots of singing and bright, cheerful colors throughout the church. The service has a decidedly less formal pattern, but a pattern nonetheless. There is a blessing, a lighting of the paschal candle, a service that includes lessons on the teachings and sacrifice of Christ, another blessing, baptisms and Easter mass. Orthodox churches perform a procession outside to conduct a symbolic church for Christ’s body and thus joyfully announce that “Chris is risen!” and then the procession returns to the church for the service.

Easter eggs are thought to represent the empty tomb, but they are known to represent new life and rebirth, thus a natural addition to a springtime religious festival. Dating all the way back to medieval times eggs were given to servants at Easter and to children in Germany along with other gifts.

Chocolate Easter bunnies have been around since the early 19th century and remain exceedingly popular in Easter baskets even today. Over 90 million chocolate Easter bunnies are made each year to be included in children’s Easter baskets.

Dancing is also a popular way to celebrate on Easter Sunday, as is witnessed in Ireland where Christians dance on the streets. While they are dancing to win a prize of a cake, the rest of the Irish observations of Easter Sunday are sacred and filled with fasting and prayer.

Many countries celebrate in very differing ways. For example, in Malta Easter Sunday is a joyous event with a parade and a band. The procession is then followed by a huge lunchtime family gathering where everyone enjoys a feast of spring lamb, vegetables and baked potatoes. Afterwards the children are given a chocolate or confectionary treat.

In Mexico, Christian communities will reenact the events of the holy week, to include the Resurrection. These reenactments are known for theatrical flair, with the actors preparing for a full year to play their parts.

What religious holiday isn’t famous for its myths and legends? One such legend is of a young rabbit that waited anxiously for three days for his friend, Jesus, to come back to the Garden of Gethsemane. It is told that when Jesus returned to the garden on Easter morning he was greeted by his friend, the rabbit. While only a legend, it is a sweet possible explanation of the inclusion of rabbits in the celebration of Easter.

History of Easter

Easter is the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Easter’s arrival is greeted with a jubilant rejoicing in that the son of God has risen up from the dead – resurrected from his crucifixion; as such it is known the world over as the single most important religious holiday of the Christian religion!

Easter is one of the very few ‘movable’ holidays because it does not fall on the same day every year. Since A.D. 325, Western Christian churches celebrate Easter on the first Sunday after the full moon following the vernal equinox on March 21; thus Easter falls anywhere in between March 22 and April 25. Eastern, or Orthodox, Christians use the Julian calendar to calculate when Easter should occur and therefore typically celebrate it one or two weeks after the Western Christian churches.

There are multiple versions explaining where the name of the holiday originated from. Some say that it refers to the Latin term for the white clothing donned by baptized people and others state that it was a derivative of Eostre – the Teutonic goddess of spring and also of fertility.

In the Christian church, the Easter holiday is more than a single-day observance, spanning the course of several months. There are 40 days leading up to Easter Sunday that are to be used by Christians as a time of penance and of reflection. These 40 days begin on Ash Wednesday, which immediately follows Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras is a raucous party of food, drink and fun before the fasting of Lent begins for 40 days. The only break during Lent is for Saint Patrick’s Day on March 17th. The 40 days are said to represent the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness, alone, being tempted by the devil. The last week of this 40-day period is known as the Holy Week and begins with Passover, and also includes Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.

The period after Easter is called Eastertide and is a 50-day period that includes celebrations to rejoice in the glory of Jesus’ ascension to heaven. This makes the Easter religious holiday one of the longest and most revered of all religious festivals.

In recent times the holiday has become a very secular event with many commercial and retail opportunities to represent spring, mostly. But many of these objects represent Chris either as a symbol of rebirth, religious sacrifice, or the empty tomb of Christ. Even the Easter Bunny is derived as a symbol of fertility – a direct representation of spring and an indirect relation to the pagan goddess Eostre. The Easter egg itself represents new life and rebirth. Therefore, even the seemingly commercialization of Easter products truly represent the joyous occasion of Christ’s resurrection.