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Photo by Kate Ter Haar

After our time of reflection and prayer, our Lenten journey ends with the celebration of Easter! It is a celebration of new life where families come together to have fun by going on Easter egg hunts, dying hardboiled eggs, and munching on all that yummy Easter chocolate. But where did all these traditions come from? After all, Easter can’t just be all about the candy right?

To begin with, Easter is known as a “movable feast” because it doesn’t fall on a set date every year, Christian churches generally celebrate Easter anywhere between March 22 and April 25 every year. The particular origin of the word “Easter” is unknown.  Nevertheless, some speculate that the name came from the Latin term “hebdomada alba”, or white week, which is a reference to Easter week and the white clothing worn by people who were baptized at the time. On another account, the term later appeared as “esostarum” in Old High German, which eventually became Easter in English.

Even though Easter is celebrated in one day, it’s actually a whole season in the Liturgical Year of the Catholic Church. It begins with Lent, which leads to Easter Sunday, then ending on Eastertide. Lent lasts for 40-days and is a time when Christians focus on prayer, fasting and alms-giving. It also represents the 40-days that Jesus spent alone in the desert before starting His ministry, the biblical story goes on to say that during that time He was also tempted by the devil. After Easter Sunday comes Eastertide. Eastertide is the celebration of Jesus’ ascension into heaven. It is a 50-day period starting from Easter Sunday to Pentecost Sunday. Within Eastertide is also a time called the Octave which is the first 8 days after Easter. The octave is celebrated as a solemnity of the Lord.

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Photo by Joe Hall

While the day is commonly known for celebrating new life, Easter can also symbolize many other things which can be seen through Easter traditions. The egg can be seen as a symbol of rebirth, life and fertility. Eggs that were dyed red would symbolize the blood of Jesus dying on the cross. The hard shell of the egg represents the sealed Tomb of Christ, and cracking the shell represents Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Historically, Christians would abstain from eating eggs and meat during Lent, and Easter was the first chance to eat eggs again after a long period of abstinence.

In addition to Easter eggs, who can think about Easter without also thinking about the Easter bunny? However, the Bible gives no mention about any furry, long-eared creature delivering sweets to children. Nevertheless the beloved animal is still a prominent figure in the Easter holiday. But, how did this come to pass? According to History.com, the theory with the most evidence is that this story came over with German immigrants. According to some sources, the Easter bunny first arrived in America in the 1700s with German immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania and transported their tradition of an egg-laying hare called “Osterhase” or “Oschter Haws.” Children made nests in which this creature could lay its colored eggs. Eventually, the custom spread across the U.S. and the mythical rabbit’s deliveries expanded to include chocolate and other types of candy. And since the legend of a gift giving rabbit took hold, children also enjoy leaving carrots out for their favorite bunny in thanks for all its hard work.

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Photo by Sophie Yalden

Finally, Easter is a time marked with happiness, prayer, and new life. While you enjoy time this year with your friends and family celebrating Easter, remember that it isn’t always about the games and candy, but about the time Jesus took in preparation to spread the gospel.

Happy Easter Everyone!

 

Written by Ashley Leong

Featured image by Annie Spratt

Information for this article was found on the following websites:

http://www.history.com/topics/holidays/easter-symbols

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/20/lent-2012_n_1263583.html?ref=lent

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