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History of Easter

Commemorating the Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead, Easter happens to be Christianity’s most important holiday. Easter does not fall on any fixed date of the calendar every year and thus often called the “moveable feast”. The Christian churches in the West celebrate this festivity on the first Sunday just after the full moon after the vernal equinox on March 21. Thus, approximately Easter falls anywhere in between March 22 and April 25 in the calendar year.

Julian calendar is followed by the Orthodox Christians, and Easter occurs a week or two after the Western churches celebrate Easter following the Gregorian calendar.

What is the Origin of the Word Easter?

The accurate origins of this Christian’s feast day naming are unknown. Some say that the word Easter is derived from Eostre, a Teutonic goddess for spring on earth and fertility. There are other documents that trace Easter from Latin origin; the term “Hebdomada Alba” or “White Week” is associated to the idea of Easter. It celebrates the Easter week as the people wearing white clothing and getting baptized during that time. However, experts say that it was a translation error and later the corrected version came as “Esostarum” in Old High German, which was again re-constructed as Easter in English.

Spanish people call Easter as Pascua, while in France it is called Paques. The derivations of these words are from Greek origin and Latin Pascha or Pasch that actually means Passover. When Jesus was taken to Jerusalem after his crucifixion and resurrection, Passover was observes, which is a Jewish festival commemorating the earliest Israelites’ mass departure from slavery in Egypt. Eventually, Pascha was known as Easter.

The Fusion of Christian and Pagan Traditions -

Easter is closely connected to Christian faith and follows some practices of the early pagan religions. Easter history and the rituals and traditions that are practiced today originally comes from pagan symbols, and talks about the stories of ancient Goddess Ishtar to Easter bunny and Easter eggs. Easter is nothing but the rebirth of Christ that is commemorated around the vernal equinox; this is the time of pagan celebration coinciding with the onset of spring. Easter celebrations symbolize the lightening era and the beginning of life.

“Easter” Comes from Ostara, Goddess of Spring and the Dawn -

Easter is the name of a Saxon goddess, who is also known by other names like Oestre or Eastre, and in Germany she is called Ostara. Goddess of the dawn and the spring, Ostara term comes from “dawn” or the luminous light making the eastern sky bright. Ostara is also the fertility Goddess and the "female hormone" estrogen is associated to the name. She marks the end to chilling winter and brings days brighter and longer after the vernal equinox. Thus, symbolically Easter also indicates passion for new life.

The presence of Ostara’s blessings is found in the flowering of plants and the birth of babies, both animal and human. The rabbit is symbolically associated with prosperity and is the sacred animal, thereby having relevance as “Easter bunnies”. Easter eggs are again the symbol of fertility, and are commonly seen during the spring festivals of Ostara. During Easter, one prime decoration aspect is the brightly coloured eggs. Chicks, and bunnies are also used to indicate Ostara's blessings for abundance.

History of Easter Hams and Easter Candy -

During Easter, since ancient years meat is consumed and the form is ham. Some scholars say that ham is offered during Easter because it is a "Christian" meat, however other religious sects restrict that, including those of Judaism and Islam). Hams during Easter was seen as early practices of the pagans of Northern Europe. The history of having hams during Easter goes this way – The meats of the agricultural animals were slaughtered during the Blood Moon celebrations, then they were preserved so that they would have enough food during winter months. On the onset of spring, they would celebrate the occasion by consuming the last of the remaining meats.

Historical Significance of the Easter Fasting

The men in historical years anticipated spring time as the arrival of new plants and fresh foods. Most of the pagans began fasting at the time of the vernal equinox, which was a process to clear out the “poisons" (and excess weight) from the body due to the heavier winter meals that culminated in their bodies. Some scholars however say that the purpose of this fasting was to create a sought-after state of "altered consciousness" during the spring festivals. This fasting practice could also have been a forerunner of "giving up" foods while the Lenten season.

The Feast and Debate on Easter Date

By the second century the Feast of Easter was well established. However, there was a dispute over the exact date for observing Easter between the Eastern and Western Churches. The East group preferred having it on a weekday because the early Christians observed the service of Passover on the 14th of Nisan every month following the lunar calendar. While the West group wanted that Easter should be celebrated on a Sunday regardless of the date.

To sort out this issue, the emperor Constantine called the Council of Nicaea in 325 and there the council decided that Easter should fall on Sunday just after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. The Alexandrians were known for their brilliance in calculating astronomical calculations and they decided that March 21 would be the perfect date for spring equinox.

Even today, the date of Easter follows this rule and the Easter feast is held between March 21 and April 25. There are some churches in the East who celebrate Easter following the date of the Passover festival. The preparation for celebrating Easter starts from Ash Wednesday, which marks the period of repentance in the Lent. The Holy Week and Lent end on the Easter Sunday, on which Christ’s resurrection took place.

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