EASTER Traditions

  • By K.R.K. Murthy
  • April 20, 2022
  • 2159 views
  • Know origins of Easter and significance of Easter Eggs, Easter Lamp, Hot Cross Bun, The Easter Lamb, Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Passion Week.

Easter is the most sacred of all holy days for Christians. It commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. According to the New Testament, Christ rose on the third day following burial after his crucifixion at Calvary.

 

The name ‘Easter’ is said to be derived from the festival of the pagan goddess of spring and fertility, Eostre. Another view has it that the name derives from the Old High German word ‘eostarum’ standing for ‘dawn’. The first written record of the Christian celebration occurs in the second century.

 

For several years, Easter was celebrated on various days of the week, until Emperor Constantine decreed that Easter should be celebrated on ‘the first Sunday after the first full moon (called the Paschal full moon) on or after the vernal equinox’. Consequently, Easter falls between March 22 and April 25. This year (2022) it falls on April 17.

 

The great significance of Easter as the feast of Christ’s Resurrection, led early Christians to believe that the celebration must be preceded by spiritual preparation. The forty days of fasting, penance and prayer preceding Easter is known as Lent. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. After mass, church attendees have their foreheads marked by ash often in the cross pattern.

 

First published in Journal of Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan.

 

Lent 

Usually Lent is observed for forty days. The number forty has religious significance for Christians because Jesus fasted forty days in the desert. Moses and Elijah are believed to have spent forty days in the wilderness. The Israelites wandered forty years in search of the Promised Land. The methods of fasting vary. It can be abstaining from meat once a week or eating a light meal only once a day.

 

Easter Eggs

In many cultures, the egg represents the birth of new beginnings and the advent of spring. The egg is a popular and recognisable symbol. The springtime exchanging of eggs, white, coloured or gold-leafed, is an ancient custom, which existed much before Easter. In those days, wealthy people would cover an egg with a gold leaf, while peasants often dyed their eggs red.

 

The Easter Lamb

This is essentially a Christian symbol. The lamb comes from the Jewish Passover, where each family sacrificed a lamb. Later for the Christians, the lamb became a symbol of Christ’s sacrifice.

 

Easter Bunny

The Easter rabbit or bunny carries a basket full of brightly coloured eggs to distribute to children. The goddess Eostre’s earthly symbol, the rabbit or hare, was worshipped because of its fertility.

 

The tradition of the Easter bunny came to America through the Germans who immigrated to Pennsylvania, in the 18th or 19th century and it gradually spread to other States. Initially some sects ignored it as a seemingly frivolous symbol. After seeing the death and destruction in the Civil war, the nation as a whole began the observance of Easter and the symbols associated with it.

 

Easter Egg Hunts are popular events all over the US and the White House organises one every year to celebrate the festival.

 

Hot Cross Buns 

A sweet bun filled with spices and marked with a cross on top is traditionally eaten on Good Friday. The hot cross bun also signifies the end of Lent. The spices signify the spices used to embalm Christ at his burial. Orange peel is sometimes added to reflect the bitterness of Christ’s crucifixion.

 

Good Friday 

It is a Christian holiday commemorating the crucifixion of Christ. It is the Friday preceding Easter Sunday. Christians observe this day as a day of sorrow, penance and fasting and attending Church services. The word ‘good’ comes from its obsolete sense — pious, holy. The week leading up to Easter is called the Holy Week or Passion Week. This includes Palm Sunday (the day Jesus entered Jerusalem) Maundy Thursday (the day of the Last Supper) and Good Friday

 

This article was first published in the Bhavan’s Journal, April 15, 2022 issue. This article is courtesy and copyri ght Bhavan’s Journal, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai-400007. eSamskriti has obtained permission from Bhavan’s Journal to share. Do subscribe to the Bhavan’s Journal – it is very good.

 

Also read The Origin of Christmas, Traditions and Practices

 

To read all articles by Shri K R K Moorthy   

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