EASTER is a Christian festival that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. It is the most important holy day of the Christian religion. People attend churches and take part in religious ceremonies.
In most countries, Easter comes in early spring, at a time when green grass and warm sunshine begin to push aside the ice and snow of winter. Its name may have come from Eostre , a teutonic goddess of spring, or from the Teutonic festival of spring called Eostur. Most Christians observe Easter on a Sunday between March 22 and April 25. Members of Eastern Orthodox Churches sometimes celebrate it later than other churches do.
The story of Easter comes from the Bible. The Gospels tell that the body of Jesus disappeared from His tomb on the third day after His Crucifixion. An angel appeared to His followers and announced, "He is risen."
Christians everywhere celebrate Easter with great rejoicing. In many areas, children collect candy and chocolate bunnies, and hunt colorful Easter eggs. Many persons wear new spring clothes to church on Easter.
THE CROSS represents the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ. It has special meaning to Christians as a symbol of Chirist's victory over death. The cross often appears as an Easter symbol. People in many parts of the world eat special cakes called hot cross buns during the Easter season. Each cake has a cross of icing on its crust. The Greeks and Portuguese eat a specially baked, round, flat Easter loaf marked with a cross and decorated with Easter eggs.
THE LAMB. Easter decorations and paintings often include the figure of a lamb as a symbol of Jesus. Lamb is one of the traditional Easter foods, and cookies and cakes shaped like lambs decorate many tables at Easter time.
The symbol of the lamb comes from the Jewish Pesah (Passover) holiday (see PASSOVER). The Jews sacrificed a lamb called a paschal lamb, during their traditional Passover ceremony in the Temple in Jerusalem. Early Christians interpreted the sacrifice of the paschal lamb as a forcast of Christ's sacrifice on the cross. They spoke of Jesus as "the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world"
(John 1: 29).
LIGHTS, candles and bonfires mark Easter celebrations in some lands. Roman Catholics in some countries put out all the lights of their churches on Good Friday. On Easter eve, they make a new fire to light the main paschal candle or Easter candle. They use this candle to relight all the candles in the church. Then they light their own candles from the great paschal candle, and carry them home where they can be used on special occasions.
In many parts of northern and central Europe, people burn bonfires on the hilltops. Then they gather around the bonfires and sing Easter hymns.
SUNRISE SERVICES mark the dawn of Easter in many places. Thousands gather in the Theater of the Red Rocks near Denver, Colo. Other services take place in the Hollywood Bowl at Hollywood and in the Hawaiian Punchbowl, near Honolulu. Many Americans attend outdoor sunrise services on Easter morning everywhere. Masses of lillies symbolizing purity, decorate the alters of churches throughout the country.
EGGS represent the new life that returns to nature about Easter time. The custom of exchanging eggs began in ancient times. The ancient Egyptians and Persians often dyed eggs in spring colors and gave them to their friends as gifts. The Persians believed that the earth had hatched from a giant egg.
Early Christians of Mesopotamia were the first to use colored eggs for Easter. In some European countries, people colored eggs red to represent the joy of the resurrection. In England, friends often wrote messages and dates on the eggs they exchanged. Elaborate candy eggs with a window in one end and tiny scenes inside were popular gifts in the 1800's. Children today often find chocolate eggs or cardboard eggs filled with candy
DATES OF EASTER, 1963-2000
Easter is one of the movable feasts of the Christian religion. Its date varies each year, but it falls on the first first Sunday after the first full moon on or after March 21. It cannot come before March 22 or after April 25. The first Nicene Council in A.D. 325 set the method of determining the date of Easter.
Last Updated by Virginia Young on Tuesday, 1 April, 2003 at 3:47 PM.
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