Easter is derived from ‘Eostre’, the name of a pre-Christian goddess associated with spring. Religious festivals are connected to the natural world and its seasons.
Easter occurs at the first full moon in the Northern spring or the spring equinox when the day is divided into equal periods of night and day. Spring in the northern hemisphere is a season of new life for plants and animals. That is why eggs and bunnies are involved as symbols of new life. I think it is good to understand the traditions and to explain to children, so it is not all about chocolate.
Easter and Passover
In the non-English speaking world, Easter is called by derivatives of the word Passover, Greek and Latin Pascha from the Hebrew Pesaḥ. The Passover festival in Hebrew Culture celebrates the liberation of the Jews from Egypt. (Book of Exodus)
The trial and crucifixion of Jesus occurred at Passover, so his death and resurrection coincide with Passover. His rebirth was therefore associated with both the pagan festivities of renewal and the liberation of Passover.
Easter is both a happy and sad time
Ash Wednesday precedes the Good Friday by about six weeks and is the start of Lent, a time of fasting and prayer leading up to Easter. Not all Christians observe the Lent ritual. Ashes were used in ancient times to express grief and sorrow and placed on the head.
In the Christian tradition, Easter is both a sad and joyous date on the calendar. It marks the death but also the resurrection of Jesus. As Easter is determined by the moon and seasons, the actual calendar date varies from year to year.
What is the Holy Week?
Jesus Christ entered Jerusalem triumphant and feted on Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter.
This is the beginning of Holy Week. The Last Supper took place on the Thursday, Maundy Thursday when Jesus ate with his disciples. That night he prayed long into the night in the Garden of Gethsemane. Judas, one of his disciples, betrayed him. He fell out of favor with authorities, and they crucified and buried him on Good Friday.
According to the Bible, Jesus rose from the dead three days later, on Easter Sunday, signaling the victory of life over death and the promise of eternal salvation for believers. Believing in his deity as the son of God, and trusting in his guidance, guarantees you forgiveness of your sins and life everlasting in heaven.
Christians attend church services at Easter. The Good Friday service is a solemn service that usually follows the stations of the cross as Jesus made his way carrying the heavy cross to his place of crucifixion.
On Easter Sunday, the service is joyful celebrating his rising or resurrection. Both services involve participation in special liturgies and hymns. Some churches also hold Easter processions and pageants, reenacting the events of the resurrection. This is particularly so in the Philippines where the Holy Week is celebrated.
Easter, a time of hope and renewal
Easter is a holiday rich in history and tradition. It is intercultural around the world. Whether you celebrate it for its religious significance or its cultural significance, it is a time of renewal and hope, a time to celebrate the arrival of spring or hope and the promise of new life.
Later as children became a distinct entity not just little adults, mythical bunnies were added from German folklore to deliver sweet nougat or chocolate eggs to ‘good’ children just as Santa Claus rewarded them at Christmas. In Europe, it is also traditional to paint eggshells and hang the pretty eggs as a display.
In France chocolate bells also feature as a tradition to connect with the joyful ringing of church bells on Easter Sunday.
From Christian sorrow and joy, church services to family gatherings or Easter eggs brought by the Easter bunny, Easter is a time to come together with loved ones and rejoice in the blessings of life and be grateful.
Joni Scott is an Australian author with three published novels: Whispers through Time and The Last Hotel and Colour Comes to Tangles. Joni also co-hosts a women’s blog; https://whisperingencouragement.com/ and has her own website; https://joniscottauthor.com.