Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Easter

Everybody loves Easter. It's the time of year where we combine our love of chocolate with our love of finding things! In this case, eggs and baskets. Hmmm....why do we do that anyway? I'll get to that later. Easter is one of the holidays that has been commercialized, though not as bad as some others i.e. Christmas. Sure, Easter has eggs, candy and bunnies, but we as a society go as nuts for buying presents for this holiday then we do at Christmas. Easter for me was waking up early, finding my Easter basket (it was most likely behind the chair in the corner of the living room), finding the eggs which we had painted the night before, and then getting into nice clothes for church. I always got a chocolate bunny, and when I was younger, a stuffed animal, usually a rabbit, duck or chick. Now that I'm older, some things have changed like the receiving of gifts on Easter, and somethings have not, like going to church. This is a tradition my house holds, as do many families, many of whom do not go to church regularly. Christmas and Easter are high traffic times for churches, for they are the holidays celebrate the birth and rising from the grave of Jesus Christ, respectively. Like Christmas, Easter today has become a mixture of paganism, Christianity, and commercialism. Let me guide you through that amalgamation.

The story that Easter is based around is Jesus' rising from death. According to the Gospels, Jesus, who was betrayed by Judas, put to death by Pontius Pilate, crucified on the cross, rose after three days, as he said he would, and then ascended into heaven after speaking with his disciples. I assume that most of you have at least heard the story of Jesus and don't need a long back story, so I'll skip that part. Why is this all such a big deal and why do millions celebrate this? Well, for Christians, Jesus' conquering of death and ascension into heaven proved that Jesus was God and had completed that prophecy which stated that Jesus would die for us and come back in three days and ascend into heaven. So, the holiday is celebrating the sacrifice that Jesus made for all humans. That's a pretty big deal for Christians.

Now, there was no real celebration attributed to this for quite awhile. It wasn't until the 2nd century that we even had any celebration related to it in any form. This is when a festival came up that celebrated all the martyrs for the faith. By the end of the 2nd century, a celebration for Jesus was made to coincide with Paschal. Then things got funny. People disagreed on what day to celebrate Paschal, otherwise known as Easter. Many wanted it to coincide with the Jewish Passover, and some wanted it to just be on a Sunday. The decision came centuries later to make them completely different days, and have Easter basically fall on random Sundays in late March and April.

Easter comes from the month Eostre month, named after the pagan goddess. The name was given in the year 899 as attested by Bede, a monk from England. Eostre is what we now call April. There was a celebration for the goddess Eostre in this month, but had been replaced by Paschal by the time he was alive. Now, where do we get eggs and bunnies from? Well, these are attributed to new life, or fertility. A pagan celebration of renewal which comes after a long winter, incorporated a rabbit as it's symbol given it's penchant for...ahem...rabid reproduction. The egg, also associated with new life, is synonymous with the spring festival. The tradition of coloring eggs comes from over 500 hundred years ago in England, but also in North Africa. People often abstained from meat and eggs for Lent and when Easter came around and Lent ended, eggs were a great commodity. The tradition of decorating the eggs, from legend, comes from when Mary Magdelene had brought cooked eggs to share with the women who were visiting Jesus' tomb. The eggs she had brought turned red as soon as she saw Jesus. The egg was meant to symbolize the rock in front of Jesus' tomb. There is very little information regarding the hiding of Easter eggs, so I'm going to guess that it just came about as a fun activity to do on Easter morning a couple hundred years ago.

Today, the Easter Bunny has lost it's fertility connotation and is now a fun symbol of springtime, along with chicks. We as a culture, give our kids Easter baskets, chocolates, eggs, and other small gifts and tell them that the Easter Bunny left it there for them. The Easter Bunny is not as popular as Santa Claus, but I still had fun believing that it was leaving stuff for me every Easter. Easter is a very fun holiday, one that is often overlooked when you are between childhood and adulthood with kids. Even if you don't get anything this year, go out and buy a chocolate bunny or a Cadbury Egg, though wait until after Easter because then it's way cheaper!

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