Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is the most important feast in the Christian calendar. The churches are filled with worshipers, the altars are decorated with flowers, and the music proclaims the joy of the season.
Easter Sunday falls sometime between March 22 and April 25. It falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon following March 21. The date of Easter Sunday was established by the church council of Nicaea in A.D. 325.
Easter Sunday ends a period of preparation for the feast of Easter. This 40-day period of prayer and fasting, called Lent, begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday, the day before Easter. The week from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday is known as Holy Week. Good Friday marks Christ’s crucifixion; and Easter Sunday, his resurrection.
The custom of a sunrise service on Easter Sunday can be traced to ancient spring festivals that celebrated the rising sun. The custom developed further in the Middle Ages, when celebrations at sunrise were also popular. People gathered to pray as the sun appeared and then went in procession to their churches.
The new clothes worn on Easter Sunday are a symbol of new life. The custom comes from the baptism on Easter Sunday of early Christians who were led into church wearing new robes of white linen. The present-day Easter parade has a parallel in the Middle Ages, when people walked about the country-side on Easter, stopping along the way to pray. Nowadays many people walk in Easter parades to show and see new spring clothes, especially hats.
The Easter Egg
One of the best-known Easter symbols is the egg, which has symbolized renewed life since ancient days. The egg is said to be a symbol of life because in all living creatures life begins in the egg. The Persians and Egyptians also colored eggs and ate them during their new year’s celebration, which came in the spring.
Today many people still color Easter eggs and decorate them with fancy patterns and symbols. The sun symbolizes good fortune; the rooster, fulfillment of wishes; the deer, good health; the flowers, love and charity.
The original tradition of Easter egg coloring is said to have started in Persia in 3000 B.C. to celebrate the first day of spring. The first known egg dyeing in the U.S. was by the Pennsylvania Dutch (German) settlers in the early 1700’s. They used natural materials such as onion skin and bark to color the shells.
Egg-rolling is a present-day Easter custom that takes place each year on the lawn of the White House, in Washington, D.C. In Austria, France, Germany, Iran, Iraq, Norway, and Syria, an egg-knocking game is played. The object of the contest is to hit everyone else’s egg and to keep one’s own unbroken. The last player with a whole egg is declared the winner.
Previewed by Msgr. John Paul Haverty
Superintendent of Schools
Archdiocese of New York
The Jelly Bean Prayer
Red is for the blood He gave
Green is for the grass He made
Yellow is for the sun so bright
Orange is for the edge of night
Black is for the sins we made
White is for the grace He gave
Purple is for His hour of sorrow
Pink is for our new tomorrow
A bag full of jelly beans colorful and sweet,
Is a prayer, is a promise, is a special treat
May the joy of Christ’s resurrection
Fill your heart and bless your life
By Charlene Dickerson ©1997
The Easter Bunny, Lamb & Chick
The Easter Bunny is not a modern invention. The symbol originated with the pagan festival of Eastre. The goddess, Eastre, was worshipped by the Anglo-Saxons through her earthly symbol, the rabbit.
The Germans brought the symbol of the Easter rabbit to America. It was widely ignored by other Christians until shortly after the Civil War. In fact, Easter itself was not widely celebrated in America until after that time.
The lamb represents Jesus and relates His death to that of the lamb sacrificed on the first Passover. Christians traditionally refer to Jesus as “the Lamb of God.” Many people serve lamb as part of the Easter feast.
The Chick is another Easter Symbol that represents new life or rebirth. The Chick breaking out it’s shell is a symbol for Jesus’ ressurrection, when the rock was moved and he imerged from the tomb.
The Easter Parade
I remember as a young girl, we always received a new Easter outfit. The dresses were always springlike with laces and large bows. With these dresses we received beautiful Easter Hats! The Easter Parade was organized to show off these new Easter clothes.
The butterfly is one of the symbols used most often to signify Easter. Its whole life cycle is symbolic of the meaning of the life of Christ. First, there is the caterpillar, which stands for His life on Earth. Second, comes the cocoon stage, portraying the crucifixion and burial of Jesus. The third and final stage is the beautiful butterfly, representing His raising from the dead in a glorified body.
The Cocoon and The Butterfly
A man found a cocoon of a butterfly.
One day a small opening appeared, he sat and
watched the butterfly for several hours as it
struggled to force its body through that little
hole. Then it seemed to stop making any progress.
It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it
could and it could go no farther.
Then the man decided to help the butterfly, so
he took a pair of scissors and snipped off the
remaining bit of the cocoon.
The butterfly then emerged easily.
But it had a swollen body and small, shriveled
wings. The man continued to watch the butterfly
because he expected that, at any moment, the
wings would enlarge and expand to be able to
support the body, which would contract in time.
Neither happened! In fact, the butterfly spent
the rest of its life crawling around with a
swollen body and shriveled wings.
It never was able to fly.
What the man in his kindness and haste did not
understand was that the restricting cocoon and
the struggle required for the butterfly to get
through the tiny opening were God’s way of
forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly
into its wings so that it would be ready for
flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon.
Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need
in our life. If God allowed us to go through
our life without any obstacles, it would cripple
us. We would not be as strong as what we could have been.
And we could never fly.
The Easter Cactus
(Rhipsalidopsis gaertneri), popular spring-flowering cactus of the family Castaceae, with flattened stems, grown for its bright-red blossoms that appear about Easter time in the Northern Hemisphere. The related R. rosea is the so-called dwarf Easter cactus, a diminutive plant with fragrant rose-pink flowers in abundance.
The Easter Lily
Many Easter customs come from the Old World. The white lily, the symbol of the resurrection, is the special Easter flower. The large, pure white blossoms of the Easter Lilies remind Christians of the pure new life that comes to them through the Resurrection of Jesus. The new plant life that appears in spring symbolizes new life. The lily was also called Pash-flower, Pasque flower, and Passion flower. Christians understood this last to refer to the passion of Christ. In some churches today on Easter morning, you will find the church filled with white lilies in remembrance of our loved ones who are no longer with us.
Crown Of Thorns
The “crown of thorns” signifies the pain, suffering, abuse and the cruel manner in which Jesus was treated by the soldiers, as well as the disbelief of many who did not accept him as God’s son. Jesus was literally tortured by the soldiers, they scorned him, they used physical abuse toward him, hitting him about the head with clubs and sticks causing the thorns to press deeper into the scalp.