Christians all over the world eagerly wait for the day of Easter. They celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and thus of faith on this day. Easter marks the end of the forty-day long fasting of Lent.
The week that precedes Easter is called the Holy Week, during which the Christians observe Maundy Thursday commemorating the Last Supper of Jesus. The day after Maundy Thursday is Good Friday or the day of death of Jesus by crucifixion. The fifty day period that follows Easter is called Eastertide or Easter Season and it ends on Pentecost Sunday.
Easter is known as moveable feast since it doesn’t fall on a set date every year.The first Council of Nicaea determined the day of Easter on the first Sunday after the full moon cycle (Paschal Full Moon) that followed the Vernal Equinox. Based on that calculation the date of Easter varied between March 22nd and April 25th.
Easter is also celebrated on different dates in eastern and western hemisphere depending on the calendar they use.
In the Eastern hemisphere the calculation is based on the Julian calendar, which varies by three days from the Gregorian calendar in every four centuries. According to that, Easter is celebrated a week or two after the celebration in the western hemisphere, which follows the Gregorian calendar. So, the date of Easter varies between 4th of April and 8th of May. Dates of various Christian festivities are also determined based on the date for Easter.
During the early time of Christianity only the Easter Sunday was celebrated as an auspicious day. It was believed that on this day Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to the heaven. Some Christian scholars are of the opinion that the word Good Friday was actually derived from “God’s Friday” and it commemorates the sacrifices made by Jesus to show us the way of salvation. It was during the 4th century when the church started celebrating even the week before Easter, including the days of Good Friday and Maundy Thursday.
Various theories are available regarding the origination of the word Easter. A 7th century historian and Anglo-Saxon cleric, Venerable Bede, opined that the word Easter came from Eastre or Eostre, who was a Teutonic goddess of spring and fertility. Ancient Romans used to offer their first produce of the season to the Goddess of spring.
Another version relates Easter to the Latin phrase hebdomada alba, which means ‘white week’. The term refers to the Holy Week preceding Easter. According to ancient references, during this period people who were baptized used to don white clothes and from that the name originated. Later the word appeared as ‘esostarum’ in Old High German and hence, later as Easter in English.
Some versions also relate Easter to the Jewish festival of Passover. In fact, in Spain and France Esater is known as Pascua and Paques respectively, which is derived from the Latin word for Passover, Pascha.
For the Christian churches Easter is the name of an entire season as opposed to the single day celebration. The season begins with Lent during which Christians maintain fast and spend time in prayer, self reflection and penance. This period represent the time that Jesus spent alone in the wilderness before he started preaching his ideas.
Today Easter is celebrated across the globe. It is one of the major festivals of Christians after Christmas. It is the time for them for merriment and feasting. Easter also happens to announce the advent of spring in northern hemisphere and hence, it calls for a joyous celebration. Although the nature of the festivity varies between countries some features of it like gifting, Easter eggs, Easter bunny and Easter egg hunt remain same throughout.
Masses are organized at churches, which are attended by large number of followers. Easter feasts are organized in many places and families also gather together to enjoy an Easter meal. Gifting is a common feature of the celebration and Easter baskets are exchanged among friends and relatives. Children especially enjoy Easter since it is a time for them to receive Easter gift baskets full of candy, chocolates and other knickknacks. They enthusiastically take part in Easter egg hunts.
It is one of the most common features of Easter celebration. During Easter egg hunts, hard boiled eggs or artificial eggs made of chocolate or candy are hidden at different places.
In Christianity, egg represents rebirth and therefore symbolizes with the resurrection of the Lord. The egg hunt is also relateed to the Pagan origin of the celebration. At ancient time it was believed the earth comes to life during the spring and hence, the egg was used to denote the rebirth or renewal.
Children at large numbers take part in Easter egg hunt events. Depending on the age of the participants the degree of concealment varies. As per south German traditions extra degree of difficulties are introduced to make it harder for the participants to collect eggs. Apart from the egg hunt other games are also played involving the Easter egg, such as Egg rolling, Pace Egg play, Egg tapping, Egg dance and Egg and spoon race.
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