Easter is a traditional festival that is much more than colored eggs, chocolates, bunnies and feasting. Here, we look at the event and the raison d’etre behind its celebration.
Easter, which celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, is Christianity's most important holiday. It has been called a moveable feast because it does not fall on a set date every year, as most holidays do. In recent years there have been calls to make it a fixed holiday with the favored options being the second or third Sunday of April every year.
The solemn religious observance of Easter, called the period of Lent, begins on Ash Wednesday, around six weeks before culminating on Easter Sunday. Lent marks 40 days of fasting, prayer and penance during which Christians fast, or give something up, such as a favorite food or luxury, in remembrance of when Jesus fasted in the wilderness. Though there are 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Good Friday; the six Sundays are traditionally not included because they are not prescribed days of fasting.
The week before Easter Sunday is called Holy Week and recalls the passion, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. The week contains the days of Maundy Thursday, which commemorates the ‘Washing of Feet’ and ‘Last Supper’ of Jesus with the Apostles and Good Friday, which marks the day on which Jesus was put to death by crucifixion. Easter Sunday is celebrated as the joyous day of the resurrection of Jesus.
This year Easter Sunday is much earlier than last year and falls on March 27, with Good Friday on the 25 and Easter Monday on the 28.Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter weeks later because of the differences between the Gregorian calendar and the Julian calendar, which they follow.
For all Christians, eggs are a symbol of Jesus’ resurrection because when cracked open, they project an empty tomb. When exactly the first egg was used as a symbol is still a mystery. Previously, eggs were forbidden to be eaten in the lead up to the Easter and instead were decorated and given as gifts. But since the 19th century, hollow chocolate eggs have been used as gifts that are only meant to be opened on Easter Sunday. The custom of giving eggs at Easter helps Christians remember that Jesus, after dying on the cross, rose from the dead. This miracle showed that life could win over death.
Easter Bunny and Hot Cross buns:
Similar to eggs, chicks and lambs, rabbits symbolize spring and new life so they have become a prominent Easter figure. The tale of the Easter Bunny originated in Germany around 1682 and the 'Easter Hare' would judge whether children had been good or bad.
Hot cross buns on the other hand are a popular treat, usually enjoyed on Good Friday and they date back as far as the Romans. They are sweet, spiced and feature a cross on the top, which represents Jesus' crucifixion.