17th April 2022
Christian (Western Churches)
Easter Day is the most important festival of the Christian year, since this is when Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus three days after his death by crucifixion in Jerusalem over 2000 years ago. For Christians, Easter is a day marked by special religious services and the gathering of family members together. Easter Candles are lit in churches on the eve of Easter Sunday, as a resurrection symbol of Christ as the light of the world, though some believe that these may have originated in the Pagan customs of lighting bonfires to welcome the rebirth/resurrection of the sun God.
Theologians of all Christian traditions regard Easter as the lynchpin of Christian belief, and view faith in the resurrection of Jesus as the determining factor in assessing orthodoxy. The annual rejoicing that ‘Christ is risen; He is risen indeed!’ is common to Eastern and Western traditions alike throughout the world.
Easter and the Jewish Passover are closely related, especially in the complex method of fixing the date of Easter. The resurrection of Jesus took place during the Passover. Christians of the Eastern church initially celebrated both holidays together, but the Passover can fall on any day of the week, and Christians of the Western church preferred to celebrate Easter on Sunday, the day of the resurrection.
The name Easter comes from Eostre (pronounced yo’ster), an ancient Anglo-Saxon goddess. In pagan times an annual spring festival was held in her honour. Some Easter customs have come from this and other pre-Christian spring festivals.
The Easter Bunny, a popular image of the festival, originated with the hare, an ancient symbol for the moon. According to legend, the bunny was originally a large, handsome bird belonging to Eostre, the Goddess of Spring. (Eostre is also known as Ostara, a Goddess of fertility who is celebrated at the time of the Spring equinox.) Eostre ‘resurrected’ the bird into a rabbit, which may explain why the Easter bunny builds a nest and fills it with (coloured) eggs. The first edible Easter bunnies were created in Germany during the early 1800s, made of pastry and sugar.
The white lily as a symbol of the resurrection and of purity has become the typical Easter flower. The Madonna lily was used for years as the Easter lily, but it often failed to bloom in time for Easter, and so the Bermuda, or white trumpet, lily is often used instead.
The egg is another popular symbol of Easter. Eggs were dyed and eaten during spring festivals in ancient Egypt, Persia, Greece and Rome. Coloured eggs were not, however, associated with Easter until the 15th century. Many churches today follow old traditions of colouring hard-boiled eggs and giving children little chocolate eggs as symbols of the resurrection.
Matthew 28:1-11, Mark 16:1-10, Luke 24:1-12, John 20:1-10.