On Easter Sunday, Christians the world over, venerate the resurrection from death of Jesus Christ. It is characterized by one of the most popular Church services held annually.
Lord Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead three days post his crucifixion. Easter is also called as Resurrection Sunday or Pascha. It is preceded by the period of Lent, a period of forty days of penance, fasting, and prayer.
The week preceding Easter is referred to as the Holy Week. It is made of what is called as the Easter Tridium. This Tridium consists of Maundy Thursday (marking the Last Supper), Good Friday (marking Crucifixion of Jesus) and Easter (marking the Resurrection of Jesus).
According to Western Christianity, the period beginning from Easter Day and lasting for seven weeks and ending with day fifty, called as Pentecost Sunday is called as the Easter Season or Easter Tide. As per the Orthodox Christian tradition, The Pascha season starts with Pascha (Easter) and ends on the following fortieth day, which is the Feast of the Ascension.
The day of Easter and others connected to it are celebrated as indefinite feasts, which may not come on a particular date. They do not fall on the Julian or Gregorian calendars that depend on solar phases but rather on a luni-solar calendar, much like the calendar of Hebrews.
Christian traditions associated with Easter include night vigils, sunrise church services, exchanging of Easter greetings, etc. Decorations of the Churches are made with Easter lilies, which mark the Resurrection. Other customs include the Easter Bunny, Egg hunting, and Easter Parades. Special Easter dishes are also prepared, which have a very wide regional variations.
Easter eggs are eggs that are specially decorated to mark Easter. The tradition began with an early community of Mesopotamian Christians that coloured eggs with red colour to mark the bloodshed by Christ on the cross. Easter eggs are also symbolic of the tomb of Jesus, which was empty. Early Easter eggs were dyed while modern eggs are typically made of chocolate or filled with jelly beans. Easter eggs are very popular in Slavic countries. They produce some brightly coloured eggs using a Batik technique called as Pisanka. The famous House of Faberge created exquisite bejewelled eggs for Russian royalty.
The Easter bunny is a favorite character like Santa Claus, associated with gift giving. In the U.S., the President holds an annual Easter egg roll party on the White House lawns.
Real Meaning of Easter:
According to the New Testament, the Resurrection of Christ is the foundation of the faith of Christianity. Because of the Resurrection, Jesus assumes the powerful role of Son of God. It also means that Jesus will return to give judgment to the world. Believers of Christ can rejoice in the fact that by his death and resurrection, “death is swallowed upon in victory.”
All followers of Jesus enjoy a new birth because of the living hope that comes from the resurrection of Christ. Those who accept the faith of Jesus get spiritually resurrected along with him, so they follow the righteous path and get eternal salvation.
The New Covenant:
Because of the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, mankind was destined to be separated from God, caused by its sin. The spirit of God rested on the Patriarchs of the Old Testament but did not flow down to the masses.
Initially, people offered animal sacrifices to atone for their sins. Lambs, bulls, and goats had their own importance each. But especially significant was the lamb. It was the blood of lambs that Israelites smeared on their door posts to be saved from death on the night of Passover.
The lamb sacrificed on Passover had to be spotless. From this tradition comes the significance of the belief that Jesus was the Passover Lamb- the sinless Son of God, who was sacrificed to atone for the sins of humans. His suffering and death established a new covenant between God and Man. This is an everlasting covenant.
John the Baptist had introduced Jesus to the people, “Look! – the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” Jesus is thus the Saviour and the Redeemer, who gave up his life as the sacrificial lamb to atone for the sins of mankind. When he was resurrected, he provided victory over death to all those, who believed in him. This is the new covenant of everlasting life.
Easter is linked to the Passover and exit from Egypt, which was recounted in the Old Testament via the Last Supper, the passion ending in the crucifixion of Jesus. In the New Testament, we see Jesus infusing a new symbolism of the Passover. It was the time he had gathered with his disciples at the Last Supper when he prepared his Apostles for his imminent death on the cross.
Jesus raised the bread to heaven offering a blessing and after that, similarly with a chalice of wine. The bread he told them was symbolic of his body, which was to be offered as a sacrifice and the wine as his blood to be offered. In this regard, Paul states that a Christian must give up his old ways because Christ, who is our lamb of Passover has undergone sacrifice. This action of Jesus is celebrated as the Eucharist in every Church service attended by Christians, to this day.
According to Western tradition, following the Gregorian calendar, Easter is celebrated on a Sunday between 22nd March and 25 April, within a week after the full moon. The next day, Monday is often a public holiday in Christian countries.
But Eastern Church follows the Julian calendar. As for some oriental orthodox churches, there has been a move from Julian to Gregorian calendar.
As per Western traditions, Easter is celebrated at the end of a forty day period of prayer and fasting called as Lent. Lent begins usually on Ash Wednesday. The Holy week is special to all Christians consisting of Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and finally, Easter.
Palm Sunday marks Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, Good Friday, the day of his crucifixion and Easter, the day of his resurrection. The week beginning with Easter is called as the Easter week.