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Origin Of Holidays

History Of Easter

Easter is celebrated in Christian countries by Christians and non-Christians alike, but with different meanings. Much like Christmas which was adopted to accomodate the pagans of the time, Easter is another one of those celebrations which was used to convert the pagans. Unlike Christmas, Easter actually has roots in early Christian history. Although this is a Christian holy day, literally, many of the pagan customs of the time were weaved into the Christian celebration to make it favorable to the new converts.

Easter Sunday falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after March 20th which marks the Spring Equinox. Easter Sunday can fall anywhere from March 22 to April 25th. Eastern Orthodox churches have a different method in determining Easter and sometimes will be observed on the same day as other Christian religions.

Easter Sunday, which is what people mostly refer to when they say Easter, is at the end of the Lent period (40 days - Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday, Sundays are not counted as part of Lent, but are spent in commemoration of Easter Sunday, so technically there are 40 days of Lent and 40 is always a symbol of completion in the Holy Scriptures.)

The Christian celebration of Easter is observed mostly from the beginning of Lent to the culmination at Easter Sunday with many days marked as special to note a special event in connection with the last days of Jesus before cruxifiction. The Holy Week is the last week of Lent which begins on Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday is supposed to mark the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem when the crowds laid palms at his feet. Holy Thursday is for the Last Supper. Good Friday marks the day of the Crufixion when Jesus Christ was crucified and died on the cross.

Easter Sunday marks the day when Jesus is supposed to have risen from the dead proving He has the power over death to redeem those who will simply believe in Him, saving those believers from the wrath of hell.

The word Easter is believed to be from the Scandinavian word Ostra or the Teutonic word Ostern or Eastre which were both Goddesses of spring and fertility whose festival was celebrated on the day of the vernal equinox.

Christians spend Easter Sunday in celebration and at church reflecting upon the risen Christ. Some choose to not make merriment of this day as it seems to holy while others enjoy some of the pagan remnants of the day.

The Jewish people also had a celebration around this time of year which is pointed out in Scripture known as the Passover, the observance when the angels of death passed over the homes of the faithful who marked their doorposts with the blood of the lamb (a blood sacrifice) to spare them from death. Ironically, the Christian holiday is sort of the same thing - Jesus, the lamb of God, being the blood sacrifice to spare believers from death in hell.

Some religious historians believe the death and resurrection legends were first associated with Attis. Attis was the Good Shepherd of the Roman Empire around the time of Christ. Attis' death and resurrection were celebrated at the time of year we would call Easter. The reed bearers are similar to the palm bearers of Jesus on His way to Jerusalem. The procession of the tree is simialar to the Via Dolorosa when Jesus was carrying of the cross. The effigy of Attis hanging from a tree again is just like Jesus. Some will argue that Jesus may or may not have been a real person to whom all these grand myths were attributed. Christians regard Jesus' death and resurrection account as being true and unrelated to the Roman tradition.

The Holy Week is the culmination of events marking the final days of Jesus before Easter Sunday. These are the days:

  1. Palm Sunday - The Sunday before Easter Sunday recalling Jesus' entry into Jerusalem a week before dying on the cross.
  2. Holy Monday - Jesus' cleansing of the temple and turning over the tables of the money changers to purify the house of worship.
  3. Holy Tuesday - Jesus' talk with his disciples on the Mount of Olives about the soon to come destruction of Jerusalem.
  4. Holy Wednesday - The day Judas decided to betray Jesus in exchange for 30 pieces of silver.
  5. Maundy Thursday - The Last Supper of Jesus and his time in the garden with his disciples who would not stay awake before his arrest.
  6. Good Friday - The day Jesus died on the cross.
  7. Holy Saturday - The final day of Lent and the Holy Week.
  8. Easter Sunday - The resurrection of Jesus.

Some religions also observe the following as part of the Easter celebration:

Feast of the Ascension - The celebration of Jesus ascensending up to heaven.

Pentecost or Whit Sunday - 49 days after Easter Sunday recalling the visitation of the Holy Spirit to 120 Christians with the speaking of the tongues.

The traditions associated with Easter are primarily derived from Pagan traditions which include:

Hot Cross Buns: The pagan festival had the Saxon fertility Goddess sacrifice an ox and the horns in the form of a cross became a symbol of the season, carved into the breads. The cross represented the moon, the heavenly body associated with the Goddess, and its four quarters. The word boun, from which the word bun came, means sacred ox.

As Christianity spread throughout Europe, buns were made in the traditional method, but the cross now symbolized the cruxifix of Jesus.

Easter Rabbit and Eggs - Both represent fertility. Dyed eggs were also used as part of the rituals of the Babylonian religions. In the pagan spring and fertility festivals eggs were painted and given as gifts. Eggs represented fertility and to be given one was to wish upon the receiver that they may have many children. The rabbit is another symbol of both springtime and of fertility which was strongly associated with this celebration. Has no real merit in the Christian holy days.

Easter Lilies - Without getting too graphic, the shape of an Easter lily is almost the shape of a male organ, another sign of fertility for the season when these flowers would bloom. Has no real merit in the Christian holy days.

Easter Sunrise Service - It was a pagan custom to welcome the sun God at the vernal equinox at sunrise. Christians use this early hour to attend church to greet the promise of the day for a hope of life in heaven.

Easter Candles - The Pagans would light bonfires to welcome the rebirth of the sun God. On the night before Easter, many will go to a service to light a candle at a special Mass.