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Easter

An Easter is an auspicious day when Resurrection of Jesus had taken place after his crucifixion. It is celebrated after 40-days period of Lent which is associated with Good Friday. Read to know more about significance.


A day of celebration

After a 40-day period of Lent that is associated with fasting and penance and the prolonged mourning of Good Friday, Christians celebrate Easter with great joy and festivity. Easter is a day of rejoicing for the Christians as they celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ on the third day after his Crucifixion. 

The origins of Easter date to the beginnings of Christianity, but is not clear how the word 'Easter' came to be. One theory is that it has been coined from the name of the Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre, by the Anglo-Saxon priest Venerable Bede in the 8th century 
Easter usually falls between March 22 and April 25 every year. 
 

The Easter vigil

Easter Sunday mass did not exist in the early church. What is celebrated today as Easter occurred during the night hours preceding dawn on Sunday, the Easter Vigil. In the 2nd century, the Sunday Eucharist was preceded by a vigil service of Scripture readings and psalms. According to the practice of the Roman Catholic church, this vigil consists of the blessing of the new fire (a practice introduced during the early Middle Ages); the lighting of the paschal candle; a service of lessons, called the prophecies; followed by the blessing of the font and baptisms and then the mass of Easter. In a lot of churches, including Protestant churches, the first mass of Easter begins at midnight. 

Among the Eastern Orthodox and Russian Orthodox churches, the vigil service is preceded by a procession outside the church representing a fruitless search for the body of Christ. Then comes the joyful announcement, "Christ is risen," followed by the
Easter Eucharist. When the procession first leaves the church, there are no lights anywhere, but on its return hundreds of candles and coloured lamps are lighted to show the splendour of Christ's Resurrection.
 

Easter and baptism

The connection between baptism and Easter can be traced to the church's first centuries. During this time the whole of Lent was not only a time of penance but also the period during which the catechumens (persons to be baptized) were prepared for baptism, which was given only once a year, at Easter. For the six weeks preceding Easter the catechumens were instructed in the Christian faith. The catechumenate came to an end with the solemn baptisms of the Easter vigil. This is the explanation of the present practice of the long ceremony of blessing the font on Easter night and of the great emphasis on baptism and its meaning and the many allusions to it still present in the
Easter services.
 

Popular customs  

There are many folk customs and traditions associated with Easter, many of which have been handed down from the ancient ceremonies and symbolism of European and Middle Eastern pagan spring festivals. There is a link between spring and Easter, the day of resurrection, as they both represent the birth of new life. 

In the early church, those who were baptized at the Easter Vigil were dressed in a white robe. They would wear that robe throughout the whole Easter week as a symbol of their new life. Those who had been previously baptized, did not wear white robes, but would wear new clothes to indicate their share in the new life of Christ.

During the Middle Ages in Europe, people in their new Easter clothes would take a long walk after Easter Mass. This was a kind of procession preceded by a crucifix of the Easter Candle. The tradition evolved into Easter Parades.

In many parts of the world people serve traditional breads and pastries at Easter. Very often these breads and pastries, together with meat and eggs, are blessed on Holy Saturday. An Italian custom is to make a simple sweet bread dough shaped in the form of a chick, bunny, or doll. These breads are baked with a whole egg placed in the "tummy" of the form and frosted with egg yolk. The whole family is involved in the making of these Easter breads. They are brought to the Easter Vigil to be blessed and are given as gifts on Easter Sunday to young friends and relatives.
 

The Easter egg

For instance, eggs, formerly forbidden to be eaten during Lent, have been prominent as symbols of new life and resurrection. In ancient Egypt and Persia friends exchanged decorated eggs at the spring equinox as they have always been symbols of creation, fertility and new-life, marking the beginning of the new year. Even today on Easter day people gift each other brightly coloured and decorated Easter eggs. For Christians of the Near East, the Easter egg represented the tomb from which Jesus broke forth. They were often coloured red to symbolize the blood of Christ by which all believers were given a share in the new life of Christ. As part of the Easter festivities, Easter eggs are often hidden and left for the children to find. 
 

The Easter bunny

Rabbits were also a pre-Christian fertility symbol. Often they were used as images of Christ's post-resurrection appearances. These appearances were likened to the rabbits being seen and then disappearing and then being seen again somewhere else. The first mention of the Easter Bunny and his eggs seems to have come from Germany in the late 1500's. In many sections of Germany, the belief was that the Easter bunny laid red eggs on Holy Thursday and multi-colored eggs the night before Easter Sunday.
 

Easter lilies

In early Christian art, the lily is a symbol of purity because of its delicacy of form and its whiteness. The white trumpet lily, which blooms naturally in springtime, was brought to America from Bermuda. They are popularly called "Easter Lilies" because they bloom around Easter time. The American public quickly made it a symbolic feature of the Easter celebration. 
 

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