In Christian countries Easter is celebrated as the religious holiday commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. But the celebrations of Easter have many customs and legends that are pagan in origin and have nothing to do with Christianity.
The Christian celebration of Easter embodies a number of converging traditions with emphasis on the relation of Easter to the Jewish festival of Passover. Passover is an important feast in the Jewish calendar which is celebrated for 8 days and commemorates the flight and freedom of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.
The early Christians, many of whom were of Jewish origin, were brought up in the Hebrew tradition and regarded Easter as a new feature of the Passover festival.
Who Decides When East Occurs?
Easter is observed by the churches of the West on the first Sunday following the full moon that occurs on or following the spring equinox (March 21). So Easter is a “movable” feast which can occur as early as March 22 or as late as April 25.
Why Easter Eggs?
Of all the symbols associated with Easter, the egg, the symbol of fertility and new life, is one of the most identifiable. The customs and traditions of using eggs have been associated with Easter for centuries.
Originally Easter eggs were painted with bright colours to represent the sunlight of spring and were used in Easter egg rolling contests or given as gifts. After they were coloured and etched with various designs the eggs were exchanged by lovers and romantic admirers, much the same as at Valentine’s Day. In medieval time eggs were traditionally given at Easter to the servants. In Germany eggs were given to children along with other Easter gifts.
Different cultures have developed their own ways of decorating Easter eggs. Crimson eggs, to honour the blood of Christ, are exchanged in Greece. In parts of Germany and Austria green eggs are used on Holy Thursday. Slavic peoples decorate their eggs in special patterns of gold and silver
Austrian artists design patterns by fastening ferns and tiny plants around the eggs, which are then boiled. The plants are then removed revealing a striking white pattern. The Poles and Ukrainians decorate eggs with simple designs and colours.
In Germany and other countries eggs used for cooking where not broken, but the contents were removed by piercing the end of each egg with a needle and blowing the contents into a bowl. The hollow eggs were dyed and hung from shrubs and trees during the Easter Week. The Armenians would decorate hollow eggs with pictures of Christ, the Virgin Mary, and other religious designs.
Did Your Know?
- Easter covers a forty-six-day period that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends with Easter. The Lenten season itself comprises forty days, as the six Sundays in Lent are not actually a part of Lent.
- Sundays are considered a commemoration of Easter Sunday and have always been excluded from the Lenten fast.