Holiday Page: Easter Holiday Page: Easter

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Twas The Night Before Easter (A Parody)

The Historicity Of Jesus' Resurrection: The Debate between Christians and Skeptics. (By Jeffery Jay Lowder, 1995)

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History of Easter
Easter is the holiday of spring, hope, and new life. From prehistoric times, people everywhere have rejoiced to welcome spring. The awakening of the earth after its long winter sleep has been observed with feasting, singing, dancing and worship.

In America and most European countries, Easter is traditionally a Christian holiday. On this day, Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, as it is told in the Bible. This holy day celebrates the triumph of life over death.

Historically, the resurrection of Christ occurred at the time of the Jewish feast of Passover (called "Pesach" in Hebrew). In the early years of Christianity, Jewish Christians observed the resurrection and Passover together on the 14th day of Nisan, the Jewish month roughly corresponding with April. However, Gentile Christians celebrated the resurrection every Sunday with a special emphasis on the Sunday slosest to Nisan 14. To settle this difference, at the Nicene Council in 325 A.D., churchmen fixed the date of Easter on the first Sunday following the Paschal full moon. This is the first full moon after the vernal equinox, March 21. This system is still followed today. Therefore, Easter Sunday moves between March 22 and April 25.

The term "Easter" was first used when Christianity was introduced by the Saxons. Prior to this time the Saxons had held an annual feast in honor of the ancient Teutonic goddess of spring, Eostre. The name was transferred to the Christian observance of Christ's resurrection.

People of many lands and languages have given names to the celebration of spring. Through the years a great assortment of customs and traditions have developed. As people have emigrated, their customs have blended with native observances, till now the arrival of spring is acknowledged in a multitude of ways. But wherever and however Easter is kept, it is universally a joyous, happy day.
Shrove Tuesday
Shrove Tuesday is the last Tuesday before Lent. It is a day of feasting. In France, it is called Mardis Gras or Fat Tuesday. In some countries, people stop eating fat during Lent. Perhaps you think fat would not be hard to give up, but fat is used to fry delicious treats, such as doughnuts. On Fat Tuesday, people use up all the fat in their cupboards. In Germany and Austria, people cook crullers in the fat. Crullers are thick doughnuts. In Finland, people cook a pancake called blini.

Some people stop eating eggs during Lent. What do they do before Lent to use up all the eggs in their refrigerator? They make pancakes! This is why Shrove Tuesday is also called Pancake Tuesday.

People who live in Olney, a town in England, celebrate this day with a special event. They have had a pancake race on every Shrove Tuesday for over 500 years. Everyone gathers in the center of town. The racers hold frying pans with hot pancakes still cooking in them. At the word "Go!" they dash to the church, flipping their pancakes as they run. They must flip them at least three times before they reach the church.
Ash Wednesday
The first day of Lent is called Ash Wednesday. Long ago on this day, Christians dressed in their old clothes. They rubbed ashes on their foreheads. They wanted to show God that they were sorry for the wrong things they had done in the past year. Some Christians today have ashes put on their foreheads at church on Ash Wednesday.
Palm Sunday
Palm Sunday is during the last week of Lent. It is one week before Easter Sunday. On Palm Sunday, Jesus rode into the city of Jerusalem on a donkey. The followers of Jesus who lived in Jerusalem were happy to see him again. The road to Jerusalem was lined with palm trees. As people saw Jesus, they took leaves from the palm trees and placed them on the road. The palm formed a special carpet for Jesus. Some people waved palm leaves when Jesus passed by. They shouted greetings to him.

Today on Palm Sunday, many Christians go to church. They hold palm leaves to remind them of the time Jesus rode into Jerusalem. They welcome Jesus again into their hearts.

In some countries, it is hard to get palm leaves, so people hold willow or yew branches, or flowers. In Europe, Palm Sunday is called Willow, Yew, or Blossom Sunday.
Good Friday
Good Friday is five days after Palm Sunday. This is a sad day for Christians. It was on this day many years ago that Jesus died. People thought that they would never see Jesus again.

Why is this sad day called "good"? For many years, it was called "God's Friday." God's Friday sounds like Good Friday. This may be the way that Good Friday got its name. In other countries, this day is called Big Friday, Holy Friday, or Silent Friday.

Around the world, Christians have church services on Good Friday. In Spain, Mexico, and many South American countries, there are parades each day of the last week of Lent. The Good Friday parade is the saddest one. The parade of people winds through the dark streets early in the morning. Drums beat and the church bells ring slowly. People in the parade carry large statues of Jesus and his mother, Mary. People crowd the streets to watch the procession go by. They sing sad songs. They sometimes carry candles to brighten the darkness. Everyone is sad on Good Friday, but in two more days it will be Easter Sunday, a time to be happy again.
Easter Sunday
Easter Sunday is a day for rejoicing. It was on easter Sunday that the friends of Jesus learned that Jesus was alive again. They went to the cave where Jesus had been buried. They found that the huge rock, which blocked the entrance to the cave, had been rolled away. The cave was empty. Jesus was alive again! He promised new life to everyone who believed in him.

Many Christians celebrate the promise of Jesus by going to church on Easter Sunday. They wear their best clothes. Churches are filled with flowers and candlelight. Bells ring out the happiness people feel. Everyone sings joyful hymns. Christians celebrate because Jesus has shown them God's power and love.
Easter Monday
Spring is a time for rain showers, but Easter Monday can be a wet day for other reasons! Long ago, people believed that water was special during Easter. Girls washed their faces in streams or in the morning dew. they believed that this would make them beautiful!

In parts of Europe, easter Monday was a day for pushing friends into the water. Because of this, in Hungary, this day was called Ducking Monday. Today in Hungary, boys sprinkle girls with perfume or perfumed water. They wish one another good luck. The girls must reward the boys who spray them. They give them coins or Easter eggs.

In England, a favorite custom on Easter Monday and Tuesday was called "lifting" or "heaving." Young men went from home to home in the village. They carried a chair decorated with flowers. When a girl or a woman sat in the chair, they lifted her into the air three times. Being lifted was supposed to bring her good luck. She thanked the yound men with money and a kiss! On the Tuesday following Easter Monday, it was the women's turn to lift the men in a chair!

How did this custom start? Some people think that it started as a wish that the crops would grow tall. Others believe that the custom began as a reminder that Jesus was lifted from the grave and taken to heaven.
The Cross
Many people around the world believe that Jesus died and came back to life again. These people belong to many different churches. However, they are all Christians. The symbol for Christian religions is the cross. Jesus died on the cross and came back to life on the very first Easter Sunday.
Easter Bunny
The Easter bunny really started out as the Easter hare in ancient oriental cultures. We don't know when the name was changed or why. We do know that because of their many baby bunnies, it makes sense to use rabbits as symbols of abundant new life.

It was in Germany that the Easter bunny was first connected with Easter eggs in the spring celebration. Children made nests of leaves, moss, or grasses and placed them in their yards or gardens. They believed that during the night the Easter bunny would fill the nests with bright yellow, blue, green, and purple decorated eggs.

In Texas, some people still continue the German custom of burning Easter-eve fires. The children are told that the Easter bunny is burning wild flowers to make his dyes.
Easter Eggs
The egg is another symbol of new life. Giving eggs at Easter has been an important activity during spring celebrations for centuries.

Children in England, Holland, and France go from house to house asking for Easter eggs. This is similar to the American custom of trick or treat on Halloween.

Eggs that are blessed at church during Easter time in the orthodox Russian church are part of a special breakfast on Easter day.

German children are given presents that are hidden inside of imitation Easter eggs.

People in many parts of the world dye or decorate Easter eggs. In some countries decorating eggs is considered a great art. Designs are drawn on the egg with beeswax. Then the eggs are dipped in brightly colored dye. The dye colors everything but the design. In Poland, eggs are decorated with crisscross lines, tiny checker-boards, dot patterns, and shapes of plants and animals. No two eggs are alike.

Some people used to think that Easter eggs had magical powers. They believed that painted eggs buried in the ground at Easter made the grapevines grow well. Some believed that the yolk of an egg laid at Easter time, if kept for a hundred years, would turn into a diamond.
Easter Egg Tree
The Easter egg tree custom came from Germany. To prepare an egg, a tiny hole is pricked at each end of the shell and the inside of the egg is blown out. Then the eggshell is colored, decorated, and hung on a tree or bush.
Butterfly
The butterfly begins as a caterpillar wrapped in its cocoon. Then from the dead-looking shell emerges a beautiful butterfly.
Peacock
The peacock sheds its old feathers and, with brilliant new blue and green ones, becomes a renewed bird each spring.
Baby Chicks
Of course, baby chicks are a symbol of new life. To people long ago, it was startling to see a new and living creature come out of an egg which they considered dead.
Lamb
The lamb has always had religious meaning and is sometimes used to represent Christ. A long, long time ago, meeting a lamb was considered good luck. In those days there was a superstition that said the devil could become like any animal except a lamb.
Easter Lily
This flower first came from an island near Japan. When it was brought to America, it wasn't even a springtime flower. Since that time flower growers have learned how to make it bloom in the spring. The Easter lily starts out as a hard, brown bulb that has a paper-hard shell. The bulb is buried in the earth. The sun shines, the rain falls, and at last a plant grows from the bulb. Soon a beautiful white lily blooms. Lilies are widely known as a symbol of Easter and the coming of spring. Their sweet, clean smell and simple form seem to stand for everything pure and perfect. For hundreds of years Lilies have commonly appeared as symbols of purity and holiness.

When Jesus walked the earth all plants and animals, ugly and beautiful, bowed their heads in respect. All except for the lily. The lily was too beautiful and proud to bow. After the crucifixion of Jesus the lily felt so badly that it bowed its head. And as an everlasting show of respect the lily continues to bow its head in respect.
Narcissus
They are white or yellow springtime flowers that even grow in the Swiss Alps. They have been part of Easter celebrations for centuries. Maybe you know them by different names, daffodils or jonquils.
Wild Tulips
People in the Middle East decorate their himes at Easter with these flowers. They call them "lilies of the Field."
Pussy Willows
These plants are part of spring and Easter festivities in England and Russia as well as in America.
Tropical Flowers
These brilliantly colored flowers are taken to church for blessing at Easter by the people of Mexico.
New Clothes
A long time ago people began wearing new clothes in the spring because they were tired of wearing their heavy winter clothing. The new light clothing represented a new beginning. Some people believed that wearing from one to three pieces of new clothing at Easter would bring good luck all year.
Easter Parade
People enjoyed wearing their new clothes so much they wanted to show them to everybody. That's how the Easter parade began. In some countries it became the custom to take a walk in the country after church on Easter morning. Wearing their new spring clothes, the people would exchange Easter wishes as they walked. Today lots of cities in the United States have Easter parades.
The Palm Branch
It was the Roman custom to welcome royalty with waving palm branches. When Jesus entered Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday, people cut branches from palm trees, blanketed the streets with them, and waved them in the air. Today, Christians carry palm branches in parades, create palm crosses, and weave palm leaves to decorate their churches.
Hot Cross Buns
Many people around the world bake and eat hot cross buns during the Easter season. This is the only time of the year when these special buns are made. Hot cross buns are small, spicy, sweet buns. They have a white cross of sugar marked on the top. In the old days, people ate hot cross buns because they believed that the buns would keep them healthy all year.
Easter Ham
Hundreds of years ago, people in England began eating ham on Easter Sunday. This is a common Easter dish all over the world. Ham comes from pigs. The pig is a symbol of good luck in many countries. To wish someone good luck in German is to say "Schwein haben." This means "have a pig." Germans used to believe that it was good luck to own a pig.
Morris Dancers
In some parts of England, springtime dancers called Morris Dancers, dance in the streets on Easter Sunday. They wear white shirts and red sashes. They have straw hats with streamers that dip and curl when they dance. Red and green ribbons are tied above the knees of their black trousers. Rows of little bells jimgle as the dancers perform. The Morris dance is hundreds of years old.
Easter Witches
In Sweden, children celebrate Easter in a special way. They draw pictures of witches on pieces of paper and add Easter greetings to the pictures. Then, dressed as witches, the children deliver their Easter cards to the homes of their friends. Firecrackers are set off in the streets as the children run from one mailbox to the next. The witches stand for bad luck and the firecrackers are lit to frighten the bad luck away.

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May the trail rise to meet you.
May the Sun shine always at your back and
may the Creator hold you in the hollow of His hand.