Easter Day 2011
By Porscha White, BOILA Employee
April 24, 2011 is recognized as Easter Sunday to many people, but its date is not fixed because it’s based on the Sunday after the first full moon following the spring (vernal) equinox. Easter is mainly celebrated by Christians; however its history surrounds traditions from not only Christianity, but also Paganism and Judaism.
The date of Easter is very controversial, and is different within Eastern and Western Christianity. Western Churches celebrate it between March 22 and April 25, which Eastern Churches celebrate it between April 4 and May 8. The main reason for this difference is because Eastern Churches follow the Julian calendar, while Western churches now follow the Gregorian calendar. Also, although both churches consider Easter being the Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox, they have astronomical differences regarding when the spring equinox begins.
Many believe that the modern day Christian celebration of Easter originally derived from Pagan celebrations. The name “Easter” originally came from an earlier Goddess named Eastre or Eostre, meaning spring. There were rituals dedicated to her throughout the enter month of April to celebrate the spring equinox and welcome springtime. Many of these Pagan traditions have crossed over to the modern day celebrations of Christianity’s Easter.
Some of the Pagan traditions used in today’s Easter celebrations include using the Easter eggs and bunny, which were originally Pagan symbols of fertility and new life. Jesus’ resurrection also coincides with the Pagan story of Persephone’s rise from the underworld, which was considered a metaphor for the end of winter and the beginning of spring. Along with Pagan traditions, Easter also has many roots within the Jewish faith.
The word Easter is Hebrew for Passover or “Pesach”. This Hebrew tradition of the Jewish Passover (which observes Israel’s freedom from the 300 years of oppression in Egypt) corresponds with Easter’s celebrations for one main reason: Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection occurred during Passover. Because of this, many of the earlier Christians looked at Easter as another part of Passover, and dedicated the Sunday of Passover to the resurrection of Jesus (hence Easter being synonymous to Passover in Hebrew).
Easter is also a holiday celebrated commercially which includes Easter egg hunts, the decoration of Easter eggs, and Easter baskets filled with candy such as jelly beans, colorful eggs and chocolate bunnies. There are also several celebrations throughout the United States to celebrate Easter such as Easter parades and the annual Easter egg roll at the White House. Although Easter is only one day, there are several days in Christianity observed that precedes and leads up to this holiday, including Mardis Gras or Fat Tuesday, which is a celebration leading up to the beginning of Lent.
Lent is mainly practiced within the Catholic church and occurs during the 40 days preceding Easter. During this time, it’s traditional for people to give up something in order to devote themselves to worship and repentance. This may include meat, gossip, internet; whatever is a temptation they feel they want to overcome during this time in order to focus more on God. The first day of Lent is called Ash Wednesday. On this day, it’s tradition to place ashes on the foreheads of believers.
The last week of Lent, which is also the week leading up to Easter, is acknowledged and known as Holy Week. During this time, the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is recognized and celebrated. Specific days that are observed include Palm Sunday (the Sunday before Easter), Holy Thursday (a day commemorating Jesus last supper), Good Friday (the crucifixion of Jesus), and then Easter Sunday, honoring and rejoicing the resurrection of Jesus with mass and feasts.
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