The History of Easter

posted in: Holidays | 0

Happy Easter! We know Easter Sunday is the celebration of Christ resurrection. The tomb did not keep Him, but he rose again. This celebration is Christianity’s most celebrated holiday.

As a child, I remember always getting a new dress each year for Easter. There were also eggs to dye and hunt, an Easter basket, and a picture taken with the Easter bunny.

So how did the holiday we know as Easter come about?

We always know Christmas will fall on December 25, but the date of Easter varies. I never really understood how they knew when Easter Sunday would fall. Apparently it is the second Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox on March 21.

Easter is the end of Lent, which is the forty days before, used as a time of reflection and penance. This time is representative of the forty days Jesus spent in the desert before beginning His ministry. We should be reflective of our own lives and shortcomings during this time. During the week before Easter we remember several important events: Palm Sunday {Jesus arrival into Jerusalem}, Maundy Thursday {the Last Supper}, Good Friday {Jesus crucifixion and death}, and Holy Saturday {the day Jesus was dead}.

After Jesus crucifixion and resurrection, Christian converts had to be careful how they greeted one another and of their celebrations. They were closely watched and many of the apostles died horrible death.

The pagan festival of Eastre occurred at the same time of year as the Christian observance of the Resurrection of Christ. The festival was altered around the Second Century to make it a Christian celebration. This made it easier for converts as they were slowly won over.

Eastre celebrated the return of spring. The name came from Ēostre, an pagan fertility goddess of spring of the Anglo-Saxons. Eventually over the centuries Eastre was changed to Easter.

The rabbit was Eastre’s sacred animal, due to the animals fertility and ability to rapidly reproduce. Eggs were used as a symbol of fertility and new chicks were a representation of new growth. It would be easy to think that brightly colored eggs are a modern invention, however they date back to these early pagan rituals when brightly colored eggs, chicks and bunnies were an expression of Eastre’s gift of abundance. The German’s brought the symbol of the Easter bunny to America. The first edible bunnies were made of pastry and sugar, not chocolate. In America, Easter was not widely celebrated until after the Civil War.

In the Christian tradition the forty days following Easter mark the time Jesus spent with his disciples until Ascension Day.

We often think of the cross as a symbol of the crucifixion; however it has since become a year round symbol of the Christian faith. The Council of Nicaea decreed the cross as the official symbol of Christianity in 325AD.

So as you celebrate this beautiful Easter Sunday and the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior, you can better understand the way this wonderful celebration came to be the Easter we know today.

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