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Easter- Holy Week

Did you know that Easter is a bigger festival among the Christian community than Christmas? And that it is celebrated both as per the Julian and Georgian calendar? Unless you are a devout Christian, chances would be slim that you are aware about the entire week leading up to the Holy Easter Sunday.

The Significance of Each Day in the Holy Week of Easter

Easter typically begins with Palm Sunday, signifying Jesus’ arrival in the city of Jerusalem on a donkey to celebrate the Jewish festival of Passover. As history goes, the donkey signifies peace and many people welcome him by waving or throwing palm branches and hence the name Palm Sunday.

Palm Sunday is followed by Holy Monday & Tuesday, though these two days do not witness much activity. However, they are significant in a way because on Tuesday, it is believed that Jesus gave a discourse to his disciples on Mount Olives and spoke about Doomsday. On Spy Wednesday, Judas, the disciple who decided to betray Jesus, agreed to show the chief priest where Jesus can be found.

On Maundy Thursday, Jesus had his last supper with his disciples and gave them wine and bread as symbols his body and blood. Finally on Good Friday, Jesus was crucified outside the walls of Jerusalem, at the top of the Calvary Hill.

The following Saturday is regarded as the eve to Easter, and a tall candle is lighted on the Gospel side of the Alter. The day is spent in prayers seeking forgiveness of sins. On Easter Sunday, it is believed that Jesus rose from his grave and guided his disciples about the right course of action they should take to carry forward his work, in his absence.

The Tradition and History of Easter Celebrations in USA

Easter Sunday is marked by a holy mass and a lot of fun filled activities. Most of these activities remind of childhood days. In fact, Easter in USA is the biggest occasion which sees record amount of candy sales after Halloween.

Over the years, Easter like any other festival has undergone its fair share of changes. Surprisingly, in pre-war period, in the United States of America, Easter did not have much of significance because the early settlers were either Protestants or Puritans. It was only after the civil war, amidst despair and loss, the story of resurrection and forgiveness actually found a fertile ground for breeding and gained acceptance among Americans.

Easter, like Christmas has some unique tradition in every county. The most famous among them is perhaps the one including the Easter egg roll on the lawns of the White house. During the late eighteenth century, during the reign of President Andrew Johnson, egg rolling was a popular sport among children around the grounds surrounding the Capitol Hill. The activity was temporarily stopped when the congress ran out of money to maintain the grounds, which got damaged during excessive egg rolling. The tradition was again revived by President Rutherford B. Hayes in the year 1878. However, this time around, the south lawn of the White House was opened up for eager children. For almost a century, children assemble on the grounds of the White House for this special occasion. At the end of the day, each one of them is offered a wooden ball signed by the President and the First Lady.

Interesting Facts about Easter Eggs and Easter Bunnies

If you are wondering about the connection between eggs and Easter, it is worth knowing the fact that the tradition dates back to the time of the Egyptians and Greeks, both of whom held egg as a symbol of fertility and new life. Perhaps the season of spring when nature gets a new lease of life has a link with these traditional symbols of rebirth or reproduction. It is also believed that the name Easter derived its name from the Anglo-Saxon Goddess Ostara, which symbolizes hare and egg.

The Easter bunny did not make its appearance until the 16th century and the tradition of painting them in bright colors only began with the Germans who settled in America in the 18th century and brought their stories to the land of Uncle Sam. Since then the journey on the popularity graph for the four legged fellow has always been on an upward moving curve. More than 90 million chocolate bunnies are made worldwide on the occasion of Easter. Undoubtedly such huge demand also gives a new leash of life to the confectionary business after the Christmas and New Year bash. Interestingly around 76% people all over the world prefer to eat the bunny ears first, before biting on any other part.

Easter Traditions in Countries around the World

Before we end, let us look at some of the weird Easter traditions that are followed in some parts of the world. These traditions not only have a local flavor, but also offer interesting insights into the lives of the people.

  • In Finland children celebrate Easter more like Halloween. They dress up like witches and visit door to door to collect candies. This tradition springs from the belief that witches become very powerful during this time.
  • In Australia, instead of a bunny, bilbes are used for bringing chocolates and hiding the eggs. Since bilbies are an endangered species, this tradition is very well justified in the Australian context.
  • In Greece, you can find eggs painted in only red color, while in Germany the eggs are not hidden, instead they are kept hanging from trees in different colors.
  • In parts of North Western Europe large bonfires, called Easter Fires, are lit on Easter Sunday and Monday to celebrate the bloom of spring over the bareness of winter.

Easter is a festival of bonding. As you celebrate with your family, never forget the words of Billy Graham “God proved His love on the Cross. When Christ hung, and bled, and died, it was God saying to the world, 'I love you”.

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