Posted by: admin on Sun, Apr 4, 2010
What's Easter to you?
|So what is Easter all about?|
|Say the word “Easter” to most people and one or more of the following will probably jump into their minds; eggs, chocolate, bunnies, hot cross buns, Lent, the Easter Beagle (If they are a Peanuts fan), vacation, Spring, Daffodils, greetings cards. Following this up with the question, “What is the religious significance of Easter?”, and you might well be confronted by blank stares, for like Christmas, Easter has devolved, or perhaps that should be, reverted into yet another secular season.|
|When you consider the origins of Easter and of some of the things associated with it we should really not be surprised.|
The Easter Season
It might come as no surprise to discover that Easter was originally a pagan festival beloved by the ancient Anglo-Saxons who celebrated the return of spring with an uproarious festival commemorating their goddess of offspring and of springtime, Eastre. When the second-century Christian missionaries encountered the tribes of the north with their pagan celebrations, they attempted to convert them to Christianity and in the process, “Christianised” the existing pagan festivals As it happened, the pagan festival of Eastre occurred around the same time of year as the Christian observance of the Resurrection of Christ, which was originally at the time of the Jewish Passover. It made sense, therefore, to alter the festival itself, to make it a Christian celebration as converts were slowly won over. The early name, Eastre, was eventually changed to its modern spelling, Easter.
The Official Date of Easter
In A.D. 325, Easter, which had until that time been variously celebrated on different days of the week, including Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, became fixed in the Christian calendar by decree of the Council of Nicaea, convened by Emperor Constantine. It issued the Easter Rule which gave exact, although far from straight forward guidelines (it was a government decree after all) as to when the death and resurrection of Christ were to be officially celebrated. It was worked out considering the phases of the Moon (how pagan is that!) and as a result, Easter will always be celebrated on a Sunday between the dates of March 22 and April 25.
The Easter Bunny
The Easter Bunny is a left-over from the pagan festival of Eastre. The goddess, Eastre, was worshipped by the Anglo-Saxons through her earthly symbol, the rabbit. Interestingly, the Germans brought the symbol of the Easter rabbit to America, but It was widely ignored by other Christians until shortly after the Civil War. In fact, Easter itself was not widely celebrated in America until after that time.
The Easter Egg
The Easter Egg also predates the Christian holiday of Easter. The exchange of eggs in the springtime is a custom that was centuries old when Easter was first celebrated by Christians. From the earliest times, the egg was a symbol of rebirth in most cultures. Eggs were often wrapped in gold leaf or, if you were a peasant, coloured brightly by boiling them with the leaves or petals of certain flowers. It has nothing to do with the rolling away of the stone from Christ's tomb.
Hot Cross Buns
On the first day of the season of Lent, which is the forty-six day period just prior to Easter Sunday, hot cross buns are traditionally baked and eaten, yet they are also, in all likelihood, and outgrowth of the ancient pagan sacramental cakes eaten by the Anglo-Saxons in honour of their goddess "Eastore". Supposedly the early clergy tried to stop the use of the sacramental cakes but as they could not, so they gave incorporated them into the Christian celebrations by blessing them and decorating them with the cross. The Italian Tortona is a twist of dough baked around a coloured egg. Similar breads are found in many other countries. It is worth noting that the Greeks offered to Apollo, Diana, Hecate, and the Moon, cakes with 'horns.' Such a cake was called a bous, and (it is said) never grew mouldy. The 'cross' symbolized the four quarters of the moon." Other sources say that the cross on the bread symbolises the "… four seasons and four elements [fire, earth, air, water] of ongoing life at the holiday, Ostara, of renewal”.
The Lenten Season
Lent was derived from the Anglo-Saxon word Lencten, meaning spring. In France the season is called Careme, and in Italy it is Quarestima, both derived from the Latin Quadragesima. In some languages, the word "Lent" actually means "fast."
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and is a time of fasting, prayer, temptation and repentance in remembrance that Jesus fasted and was tempted in the wilderness for 40 days. This is where the custom of giving up something for Lent originated.
The Lenten season, while not being prescribed in Christian scriptures, has been a custom practised by Christians for most of the last two thousand years. In many places around the world Carnival or Mardi Gras (French for "Fat Tuesday") is a celebration, on the Tuesday prior to Ash Wednesday designed as a last 'bash' before the deprivations and sacrifices of Lent began.
However, Lent is actually 46 days because while the 40 days of Lent are days of sacrifice and fasting, Sundays, the Lord's Day, are days of celebration! So Lent is suspended each Sunday. This works out to mean that the 40 days of Lent are spread out over a total of 46 days.
Lent leads into the highlight of the year for Christians, which is Easter, the day when our Lord rose from the dead.
So, if we dig beneath the pagan symbols, meaningless ritual and traditional practises surrounding Easter, what is left?
The true Christian meaning of the season of Easter; the Death and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Cross is the symbol of the Crucifixion, as decreed by Constantine at the Council of Nicaea, in A.D. 325, and as used universally by Christians.
Here then is the true essence of Easter. That the Son of God died for the Sin of the world, was buried, was resurrected and ascended to the Right Hand of God. Easter is the celebration, not only of the life of Jesus, but of his death and resurrection, through which, if we believe, we can also have life everlasting.
The Real Date of Easter
Of course, the Bible is very clear that Jesus was crucified at the time of the Jewish feast of the Passover (Pesach). This fits perfectly with Jesus as the 'Lamb of God' and the sacrifice for the sin of the world. The Passover and the celebration of Easter almost coincide, so unlike Christmas the date for Easter is about right, but if you wanted to be exact, Easter should always be celebrated at the time of Passover.
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