What does Easter mean to you? Is it a day for the Easter Bunny and colored eggs, candy and fun or does it have a deeper meaning? Being the son of a minister, Easter always had a religious meaning to me. What then is the real meaning of Easter?
To the people of the Christian faith it is a day to remember Jesus rising from the dead. The Friday before Easter is known as Good Friday, which denotes Jesus’ crucifixion and after three days, Jesus rose from the dead. After the crucifixion Jesus was buried in a tomb and a large stone was placed at the entrance by his followers. Three days later they went back to the grave and the stone was moved and only the cloth that Jesus was buried in was there. An angel nearby told Jesus’ followers that a miracle had taken place and Jesus had risen.
Some of the Christian faith believes that Lent begins 40 days before Easter Sunday. During this period, Christians prepare for Easter; Lent is a time for penance, a period to show repentance for sins and to seek forgiveness. Some of the ways this is done is by fasting, limiting the kinds and amount of food eaten during this period. Some may give up certain things totally during Lent, as Jesus did as he prayed and fasted in the wilderness before his death on the cross.
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, with churches holding special services where at some churches ashes are placed on the foreheads of worshipers to represent having a humble spirit. Lent continues until Holy Week which is the final week of Lent, this period recalls actions leading up to Jesus’ sacrifice and death.
Palm Sunday begins the Holy Week, which celebrates Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, with people laying palm branches and clothing before him as he entered the town. Good Friday the day Jesus died on the cross, many believe it happened between the hours of 12 noon and 3pm and many churches hold special services to reflect on the last three hours of darkness while Jesus suffered on the cross.
I can remember when I was young the outdoor sunrise services that my Dad would hold on Easter mornings to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. Easter is a time to reflect on life and not death, to have faith and love for a renewed life and someday Christians will rise from the dead and ascend to heaven.
Easter was originally was a pagan holiday to celebrate renewal and rebirth. It was celebrated in early spring to honor the pagan Saxon goddess Eastre. When the early missionaries converted the Saxons to Christianity, the holiday, since if fell around the same time as the traditional memorial of Christ’s resurrection from the dead, was merged with the pagan celebration, and became known as Easter. The meaning of Easter was also changed to reflect its new Christian orientation.
Besides the religion aspect of Easter, there are some other traditions that are observed throughout the world. One of them is cooking and eating special Easter food. The Easter lamb is a tradition in many Eastern European countries. It is an ancient tradition to have lamb at Easter time and the present time it is eaten as the main meal on Easter Sunday in many parts of Eastern Europe.
Coloring Easter Eggs was one of the main “good times” when my boys were growing up. This was a family function and fun was had by all. In Christian times the egg became a symbol of the rock tomb out of which Christ emerged to the new life of his resurrection. The custom of Easter eggs developed among the northern Europe and Christian Asia. In medieval times eggs were given to servants, some being dyed or covered with other items. In Germany children were given eggs, called Dingeier (eggs that are owed)
The Easter Bunny had its origin in pre-Christian fertility lore. Hare and rabbit were the most fertile animals our forefathers knew, serving as symbols of abundant new life in the spring season. There is no religious meaning for the Easter Bunny but children all over the world looks for the “Easter Bunny” on Easter Sunday.
Easter has remained much the same today as it was when I was young. People still put on their best “Sunday Go Meeting” clothes and go to church on Easter Sunday. Afterwards, Easter Dinner is enjoyed by friends and family, then the grand Easter Egg hunt for the little ones is the highlight of the day. Some churches still hold the “Sunrise Services”, which usually, depending on “Mother Nature”, a very beautiful and moving service.
As with the major holidays, Easter has become commercialized and sometimes we as a people forget the real meaning of Easter, the death and resurrection of Jesus. It is good to have both the religious and the traditional Easter events. Our children should enjoy the Easter Bunny, the egg hunts, candy and also be instructed on the real meaning of Easter so they understand and grow up with a love for the real meaning of Easter.