Want to know why do we celebrate Easter? Well, we will tell you, but first, let’s know what Easter actually is.
What is Easter?
It is a Christian festival that commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. It is also known as Resurrection Sunday and First Sunday.
Etymology of Easter
Did you know that the English word Easter is associated with Pagan roots? The word ‘Easter’ has its origin in Pagan mythology. The word is said to be taken from Eostre, which refers to the Anglo-Saxon Goddess of spring and fertility.
Eostre and Easter
Eostre which refers to the Pagan Goddess, and Easter, which refers to the Christian festival, have a few similarities.
The Pagans observed the Ostara ritual on Spring Equinox to honor Eostre, the Goddess of Spring and fertility. Similarly, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is said to have occurred during Spring, based on the Holy Scriptures.
The non-religious Easter traditions like Easter eggs and bunnies, which symbolize fertility, are also associated with Eostre, the Goddess of fertility.
Association with Jewish Passover
Did you know that Easter, a Christian festival, is often associated with the Jewish Passover?
Though Easter shares a few similarities with the Jewish Passover, they are two different festivals. On the one hand, Christians celebrate Easter to commemorate the resurrection of Christ from the dead.
On the other hand, Jews celebrate Passover to commemorate the liberation of the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt. However, both celebrate the triumph of good over evil and are celebrated for one week.
Easter is a Christian festival that traces its historicity in the Bible. The passion of Jesus Christ precedes it. These narratives can be found in the Gospels of the New Testament.
Here’s a brief outline of the passion of Christ:
The passion of Christ begins with the Last Supper, which Jesus had with his twelve apostles. This last meal is significant in the Christian doctrine as it was the initiation of the Holy Eucharist. Jesus’ agony follows the Last Supper at the Garden of Gethsemane, where he prays to his Heavenly Father.
After this, Jesus is betrayed by one of his disciples, Judas, who kisses him, thereby revealing his identity to the armed men sent by Jewish authorities. This leads to the arrest of Jesus Christ and his trial before Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor.
Jesus is crowned with thorns, lashed, made to carry the cross to Mount Calvary, nailed, and crucified on the cross by Roman authorities.
As prophesied in the Bible, Jesus is believed to have been resurrected on the third day after his death. Resurrection Sunday is thus celebrated to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus.
The tradition of the Christian Church
The Church observes 40 days of Lent and a holy week to bring the religious closer in faith and prepare themselves to celebrate the glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ. The period of Lent is a time of inward preparation for the resurrection of Christ.
Lent is characterized by prayer, repentance, fasting, and abstinence. It begins on Ash Wednesday and ends either on Maundy Thursday or Holy Saturday.
The dates of the Holy week, including Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Resurrection Sunday, differ every year. Some Churches follow the Gregorian calendar, and some follow the Julian calendar.
According to the Christian calendar, Easter falls on the first Sunday after the full moon, which occurs soon after the Spring Equinox.
Ash Wednesday is a day that emphasizes the mortality of humankind and marks the beginning of fasting and abstinence.
On this day, ashes prepared from Palm branches are applied to the forehead of the religious. These ashes serve as a reminder of human mortality and urge the religious to repent for their sins.
The Holy week
Holy Week is observed for seven days. It includes Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Resurrection Sunday.
The holy week begins with Palm Sunday. This day commemorates Jesus’ arrival at Jerusalem and his journey towards the salvation of humankind. It falls on the Sunday before Resurrection Sunday.
Most Christian denominations observe Palm Sunday by blessing and distributing palm branches. These palm branches are biblically significant as they represent the palm branches laid by the people of Jerusalem during Jesus’ arrival.
Maundy Thursday is also known as Holy Thursday. It commemorates quite a few events mentioned in the Bible.
Maundy Thursday commemorated Christ’s last supper with the apostles when he instituted the Holy Eucharist. It also commemorates the commandment of love given by Jesus to the apostles.
In most Churches, the chief priest washes the feet of the laity during the Maundy Thursday service. This act is symbolic of Jesus’ washing of the apostles’ feet during Last Supper. The washing of the feet represents both spiritual cleaning and reconciliation.
Good Friday commemorates the death and crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
The liturgical celebration on this day varies across Christian denominations. Some perform the liturgy and distribute Holy communion, whereas some don’t.
The Catholic Church observes a veneration of the cross during the Good Friday mass. The laity and clergy honor and kiss the holy cross as part of this veneration.
In most Christian denominations, the Holy Saturday marks the end of Lent. It is the day between the death and resurrection of Christ.
This day is also known as Easter Vigil. On this day, the Church observes silence to commemorate the death of Christ. It is honored as the last day of Christ’s death when he descended to hell.
In most Churches, the Vigil often includes the lighting of candles to commemorate Christ’s victory over death.
The Vigil is also important because most Churches perform a renewal of Baptismal vows.
Every religious practice mentioned so far adds to the religious significance of the Resurrection Sunday celebration.
Resurrection Sunday marks the end of the Holy Week. This day commemorates the disciples’ discovery of the empty tomb, which indicated the resurrection of Christ.
As one of the two major festivals in Christianity, Resurrection Sunday involves the glorious celebration of the resurrection of Jesus from the grave.
Apart from religious celebrations, the festival also has non-religious traditions like Easter egg hunts and Easter bunnies.
Instrument of hope and religious faith
The festival of Easter serves as an instrument of hope and religious faith. Jesus’s resurrection from the grave symbolizes and promises eternal life after death, a belief foregrounded in the Christian faith. The resurrection of Jesus Christ also promises humankind redemption from their sins.
The Resurrection Sunday is symbolic of the realizations of the prophecies made in the Old Testament.
Here is a significant prophecy found in the Old Testament and its corresponding realization found in the New Testament regarding the resurrection of Christ and Christians.
Isaiah 25:8 and 1 Corinthians 15:54
The verse “He will swallow up death in victory” present in the book of Isaiah can be seen as a prophecy about Christ’s resurrection from death. We find this being fulfilled in the book of Corinthians, where St. Paul talks about the resurrection of Christians from the dead.
These two verses from the Bible promise the religious a new life after death which the festival of Resurrection Sunday symbolizes.
Thus, the death and resurrection of Christ increase the credibility of the Word of God and bring the faithful closer to the Christian faith.
Symbolic significance: Why do we celebrate easter
Easter is one of the major festivals celebrated by the Christian Church. This Christian festival holds a lot of symbolic significance.
It instills hope, positivity, faith, etc., among Christians. The symbolic significance is manifested through various non-religious Resurrection Sunday traditions like Easter eggs and bunnies.
Symbol of new life and fertility
The Resurrection Sunday also marks the beginning of new life and symbolizes fertility. It is the new dawn after 40 days of Lent when the suffering and death of Christ are remembered. The festival foregrounds Jesus’ new life after death and his victory over evil.
The Resurrection Sunday is also connotative of fertility because of the word’s association with Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon Goddess of fertility.
The idea of new life and fertility is further represented through the non-religious customs of Easter eggs, bunnies, and baskets.
The non-religious tradition of preparing Easter eggs for Resurrection Sunday and breaking them is popular among Christians. Easter eggs are significant for many reasons.
The egg is symbolic of Jesus’ tomb, and the breaking of the eggshell symbolizes Jesus’ resurrection from the tomb. Hence, the custom of Easter eggs promises new life and instills hope among Christians.
Easter eggs are also significant for Christians because of practical reasons. It traces its origins to the 13th Century. As the Church observed meat fasting during the holy days, the religious collected the eggs and preserved them till Easter.
On Resurrection Sunday, the eggs were decorated as a part of the celebration. The eggs were often dyed in red to symbolize the bloodshed by Jesus Christ during his passion. The eggs were also dyed yellow to symbolize the sun and green to symbolize fertility.
Eggs were also seen as a symbol of fertility by the Pagans. It is said that the Pagans used eggs in their celebrations to honor Eostre. Thus, the Easter egg is yet another similarity between Eostre and Easter.
Easter egg rolls and egg hunts
Easter egg rolling parties and egg hunts are popular activities during Easter time in many parts of the world.
The Easter egg rolling party is said to have begun in the US during the 1870s when children and their parents were invited to roll their Easter eggs on the day following Resurrection Sunday on the lawn of the White House.
The Easter egg hunt is a treasure hunt where children collect all kinds of eggs like decorated, hard-boiled, and artificial ones.
The Easter bunny has its origins in Pagan traditions. As the English word Easter is derived from the Pagan Goddess of fertility, the bunny, a highly fertile animal, is said to have become a symbol of Easter.
In the 18th Century, the legends of the Pennsylvania Dutch spoke about Oschter haws. They were Easter bunnies who would leave eggs for well-mannered children. Inspired by this folklore, today, the Easter bunny is a mythical character like Santa Claus.
The bunnies are expected to leave delicacies like Easter bunnies and chocolate eggs in the baskets. This is believed to happen on the night before Resurrection Sunday when the children have fallen asleep.
The baskets are of symbolic value, just like the Easter eggs and lambs. The Early Christians celebrated Resurrection Sunday by carrying a basket of delicacies to Church and getting it blessed by the Priest.
According to the Pennsylvania Dutch folklore, the Easter bunnies left the eggs in Easter baskets for well-mannered children.
The Pagans carried their seedlings in baskets and took them to the temple to receive the blessings of Goddess Eostre. The baskets were also seen as a symbol of fertility in Pagan celebrations. It is said that the baskets were a part of Pagan worship.
According to Pagan belief, the baskets symbolized the womb of Eostre and were associated with fertility.
There are various Easter bread recipes followed across the world to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. The bread is of symbolic value. E.g., The interwoven shape of the Italian Easter bread represents the crown of thorns placed on Jesus’ head.
It is decorated with dyed red eggs to symbolize the passion of Christ. The rising of the dough symbolizes Christ’s resurrection from the grave.
Similarly, the Paska, or the Ukrainian Easter bread, also has Christian symbols like Jesus’ crown and cross.
The cooking of lamb meat on Resurrection Sunday is a common tradition of Christians worldwide. Lambs are of symbolic value in the Holy Bible.
Jesus was referred to as the “Lamb of God.” Similarly, the Old Testament talks about Early Christians offering lambs as a sacrifice to God, the father. Hence, the lambs can be seen as a symbol of Christ himself and his sacrifice of life for the redemption of humankind.
So, this is all about easter you need to know. I hope after reading this article, you are clear on why do we celebrate easter.
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