Easter Review: History, Dates, Facts and Holiday Activities
The history of Christianity is a story that revolves around the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and his resurrecting after death. This, in turn, brings a message for all his followers that there is hope and everlasting happiness after all the pain and hardships we go through in this life. Not just bibliography, the festival takes its roots from pagan traditions as well.
Countdown To Easter 2023
So, what does the word Easter mean? The name is said to have been derived from Oestre or Eostre which is a goddess of spring and fertility in the Anglo-Saxon goddess. She was represented with the symbol of a rabbit ( for their ability to procreate excessively) in the history and hence the reason why we have so many games and traditions involving Easter bunny on this festival.
There are many other pagan origins of Christian holidays and Christians have always preferred taking influence from the pagan culture for their most important festivals. This is rather a contrast to the Christian’s agenda of always belittling the belief in multiple deities that was popular in the pagan culture.
The Pagan Influence
However, the story of Jesus Christ is not the only one we know of that involves resurrection and triumph of good over evil. There are several instances from the ancient times where we can find references for something similar had occurred in completely different scenarios relating to the history of Easter and the true origin behind Easter.
There is this general story where the sun, referred to as the son, was crucified on the Southern Cross and was reborn from there to bring light back to the earth. Similarly, Ishtar, also known as Inanna who is a Sumerian Goddess, was stripped and hung on the stake. She later came back to life from the underworld.
One such incidence can be found from the Egyptian mythology as well which involves Horus. It is said to be the oldest incident in history but still happens to be equally popular even today. His damaged eyebrows that have taken quite a symbolic significance for everyone today also represent rebirth and celebration of life in its truest form.
The most popular incidence which involves resurrection and is the closest to Christianity for the history of Easter took place on the Vatican Hills and involved the head of the Cybele Cult and his lover Attis. It is believed that she was born of a virgin and was brought back to life every year after death. This festival was celebrated as a black Friday initially and was later risen to a crescendo on a Sunday to celebrate the resurrection. It was over this celebration that the pagans and Christians have fought for years and have had violent conflicts, each one trying to claim ownership of the festival to prove that their God was the true one.
Like has been seen with all ancient myths, here too, Christianity found many converts. While early churches celebrated this festival, it is not so common today. In current times, Churches are seen offering the sunrise services which is similar to pagan’s solar celebrations too. In fact, if you look at it, there is no real Easter date fixed for the festival. Even today, it is decided by the phases of the moon which again is a pagan trend.
Bibliographic Influence of Easter
Having discussed Easter’s influence from the pagan cultures and ancient mythologies, we now need to address its background in the bible as well.
To, put it briefly, Easter is actually a crucial part of Christian theology. The celebrations begin on Friday to recall the crucifixion of Jesus and end on Sunday with the whole community celebrating his rebirth and liberation from all the pain that he had faced in his life. The origin of Easter takes roots soon after the resurrection with a gourmet feast sometime around 33AD. But what exactly is a resurrection?, you may ask? Well, the accounts of resurrection differ with no one really knowing what really happened that day. The most common one being that the female followers went to visit the tomb of Jesus the morning after he was buried to find the stone rolled away. Jesus then stayed around to preach to his followers in several instances before moving up to heaven.
Easter Holidays and The Conflict
Thinking that the date of Easter was decided upon very peacefully is wrong. There were in fact, many conflicts over this single matter for centuries before taking on a decisive turn in the eighth century. Before this, the Christians in the east had a different view for Easter from those who lived in the west. Initially, the Easter was celebrated on the dates the Jews celebrated the Passover. This was usually done on the 14th day of the full moon in spring which falls around the 14th of Nisan, a month on the Jewish calendar. It was then after two days that the community celebrated the resurrection. On the other hand, the west celebrated the resurrection on the week’s first day when Jesus rose up from the dead, Sunday. The churches were soon to adapt to the Sunday culture and those favoring the 14th day of the full moon began to become minorities.
Consequently, it was decided by the Council of Nicaea that Easter would now be observed on the very first Sunday which would happen to be a full moon as well after the 21st of March. This could be anywhere between dates of 22nd March and April 25th.
So, what are the Easter dates for the year 2023? While it was celebrated on April 17th in 2022, Easter 2023 will fall on April 9th.
Easter Traditions and Activities
So, while you sit here and begin the Easter countdown for the Easter 2023, let us plan out a list of activities that you can indulge in as a family and traditions that you can enjoy together. Most of these customs do not have anything to do with Christianity but rather take inspiration from folk customs.
While you can always indulge in some scrumptious Easter chicken, there is a tradition of devouring lamb on this day. This has significance from two accounts in history. First being that Jesus himself was referred as a lamb in the Scripture. The second being the importance of this animal from the sacrificial point of view in ancient Israel. As the tradition has it, Christians would have the lamb meat placed under the altar the whole night to have it blessed to eat it the morning after on Easter Sunday.
Painting of Easter Eggs
There is a tradition of gifting eggs on this auspicious holiday to the loved ones but did you know this tradition started way back in the 13th century? The church strictly prohibited the followers from eating eggs during the Easter week but that didn’t mean that the chickens would stop laying the eggs. So, all the eggs that were laid during this week that were not consumed and hence used for decoration purposes. In fact, eggs rose to become symbols of Easter on their own with the hatching becoming a something that could be associated with resurrection. The earliest tradition was to paint the eggs red to symbolize the blood of Jesus as he was crucified on the cross.
Easter Egg Rolls
This is one of the most fun traditions that we all have enjoyed while growing up. This event was started way back by the first lady of the United States, wife of Rutherford B. Hayes. She was the one to start the rolling of Easter eggs as an Easter game on Monday after the Easter Sunday where the children were invited along with their parents to roll their eggs together. Initially, the event was conducted on the grounds of the Capitol Hill but following the popularity, it was later forbidden to hold any such event on the premises for the fear of destroying the grass with all the foot traffic that was seen.
Easter Egg Hunts
This event takes its root from the pagan festival that celebrated fertility in the spring. Christians were soon to intertwine this particular practice with their festivals as well and had it incorporated as a major part of Easter traditions. As per the rules, the Easter eggs are hidden by the Easter bunny, another mythical creature which links the Easter and the pagan culture. The eggs might contain candies or other treats for the kids who would go on to hunt for them. Many families chose to use hard-boiled eggs for this purpose that they would decorate a day before the holiday. Once the kids collect the eggs, they can then go on to enjoy them as a part of the main feast.
Chocolate Bunnies for Easter
As has been discussed before, Easter bunny holds a lot of importance in the Christian culture and is a major part of the festivities. To keep the spirit of the festival alive and engage kids in the festivities, the elders would gifts chocolate bunnies to the kids that they could enjoy as treats for the rest of the day. Most of the times, these bunnies were hollowed out and the tradition which initially began to protect the children’s teeth is carried out to date as well.
We have just discussed the kids collecting the Easter eggs in a basket but is it just an ordinary basket or it too has a significance of some sort in the history? Well, to put it put plainly, yes. The baskets represent nests that were built in front of the houses back in the days to attract Easter eggs that would come to drop by the Easter eggs. Today, these baskets are filled in with grass and given to kids so that they can collect eggs in them as the day progresses.
Easter Decoration with Flowers
What exactly is a celebration with proper decor to call for it? For Easter, while we have been using eggs and eggshells so far, the churches are also seen decorating their buildings with flowers especially Easter lilies that have been grown in the Gethsemane Garden. These flowers symbolize rebirth and resurrection and are a perfect way to welcome the spring as well. Other flowers that can be used as a part of the decor would include daffodils, red tulips to highlight the blood of Jesus, pussy willows and narcissuses. These flowers are also gifted to everyone who visits the church with special Easter garlands and headbands being prepared to be handed over to the girls who join in for the Easter sermon.
Easter Sunday Services
One tradition has Mother Mary visiting the grave of Jesus to find him gone from there and his body gone from the grave that was built for him. Therefore many churches today hold Sunday services at the sunrise to honor this event. Kids come by with their families to sing Eater song as a part of the Easter prayer. They then stay back to listen to the sermon which is arranged especially for this day to remind them of the important event of Jesus’ resurrection and why it is important to us.
While we have been talking about the whole community enjoying a gourmet feast on the Easter holiday, there are certain foods that are particularly significant for this occasion. Boiled eggs, chickens and lambs are particularly popular but we do have many other food items that are an essential part of this day’s celebrations.
Hot Cross Buns: not knowing where the tradition began initially, we do find a lot of families enjoying hot cross buns on this day that are filled with raisins and dry fruits and marked with a cross on top.
Ham: It is a pagan culture where the hunters would slaughter hogs in the honor of Eostre that would later be cured throughout the winter season to be enjoyed as the juicy ham during the spring season. This tradition too was adopted by Christians and soon we began to see pork, especially ham, as a part of the Easter meal.
Some of the other items that make it to the dinner table on Easter include deviled eggs, glazed carrots, cheesy potatoes, tarts and so much more. There are just so many ways you can enjoy your food with your family that day and have some good time with your family as you sit to celebrate the miracle of rebirth on this day.
Easter Egg Knocking
As the name suggests, this game involves making use of two Easter eggs to see which one would survive and which would knock under pressure. You can have some sort of a competition or a prize associated with this game to make it more fun for the whole family.
These are not the only ways to celebrate Easter. You can play or invent games of your own to make this day special for your own family. Maybe play on a good family movie that revolves around the subject of Easter to enjoy it while you feast on the delicious food together.
However, these traditions tend to vary from culture to culture and different countries as well. For example, you won’t see too much of the whole Easter bunny influence in the Australian culture primarily because bunnies are considered a pest for their farms. French make huge omelets from the Easter eggs that would then feed the whole families and be something that can be a part of the meal. You will also find many baked goodies in the shape of bunnies and doves to make this day more special.
So, how do you like to celebrate your Easter 2023 holidays and make them more special for your family? The traditions discussed above have been around for centuries and are worth incorporating in your family rituals as well. Take inspiration from the ones that you connect with the most and make your holidays more special.
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