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6 Things you should know about Easter... before teaching it!

1.   Why do we give Easter Eggs at Easter and what do they represent?
In many ancient cultures, eggs were a common symbol new life and immortality. In medieval times, Christians adapted the egg to their own religious devotions by giving up the eating of eggs during Lent and resuming it after Easter. Eggs came to represent the Lord's resurrection -- just as Christ broke out of the tomb on Easter morning, the yolk of the egg breaks out of its shell when cracked. The decoration of eggs for Easter is part of the folk traditions of many cultures, although it has little or no religious significance any more.

The Easter rabbit is a popular secular symbol for Easter that has never taken on a Christian interpretation. It seems to have originated from the hare, a symbol of fertility in ancient Egypt and later on in parts of Europe. It is not altogether clear how the Easter rabbit became associated with the laying of eggs.
2.   What are the origins of the Easter Bunny and the Easter Egg?
In the Northern Hemisphere Easter occurs in the spring, and coincides with pagan rebirth and fertility festivals.
Eggs have been a symbol of new life and resurrection since ancient times. Rabbits too have for long been associated with the the fertility of spring because they themselves are so fertile.  When early Christians moved into pagan areas they realised that it would be impossible to change the ingrained ancient beliefs.  Instead, they adapted them and Easter became a mixture of both Christian and pagan customs.
3.   Origins, Dates and Days of Easter
The date on which Easter falls varies from year to year. Easter falls on the Sunday after the ecclesiastical Full Moon that falls on or after March 21. Easter is therefore observed between late March and late April and can extend to early May in the Eastern Christian churches.
A system for calculating the dates for Easter was begun around 532 AD when a Scythian monk named Dionysius Exiguus reconciled the Eastern and Western church calendars with the Julian calendar, established by Julius Caesar. Dionysius Exiguus established the date of Christ's circumcision at 1 January, 1 AD, or Anno Domini, translated as 'the year of our Lord'. While this calendar was adopted by the Church, the old Julian calendar remained in civil use for another thousand years. Eventually, these were reconciled with the current Gregorian calendar, adopted in 1582.
We know that Easter was being observed as early as 180 years AD. The first black African Pope, Pope Victor (189-199 AD) decreed that Easter should be celebrated on a Sunday. However, churches in different regions, such as those represented by a synod of Asiatic bishops, celebrated Easter on different dates, not always on Sundays. The Council of Nicea (AD 325) finally clarified this by stating that Easter would be celebrated on Sundays.
A Christian scholar, the Venerable Bede (672-735 AD), first asserted that Easter was named after Eostre, the Great Mother Goddess of the Saxon people in Northern Europe. Her name was derived from the ancient word for spring, eastre. Pagan festivals associated with birth, the renewal of life, fertility and sunrise date back long before Christianity. Pagan religions in the Mediterranean area are recorded as having a major seasonal day of religious celebration at or following the Spring Equinox. Many of the present-day customs of Easter have their origins in these festivals.
4.   Religious Observances
There are a number of observances and feast days related to Easter.
Palm Sunday celebrates Jesus's triumphant entry into Jerusalem. In many churches, during Palm Sunday services, large palm branches are carried in processions. Members of the congregation also hold small crosses made of palm leaf. The palm leaves are a reminder of when the people of Jerusalem waved palm leaves when Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, and to remember the cross on which he died.
Ash Wednesday draws on the ancient Biblical traditions of covering one's head with ashes, wearing sackcloth, and fasting. The use of ashes, made by burning palm crosses from the previous Palm Sunday, is very symbolic. Some churches hold special services at which worshippers are marked on the forehead with a cross of ashes as a symbol of penitence and mortality.
Lent is the period of forty days which comes before Easter, beginning on Ash Wednesday. Lent is observed as a time for prayer and penance recalling the events leading up to Jesus' crucifixion. Only a small number of people today fast for the whole of Lent, although some maintain the practice on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Purple drapes and altar frontals are used in some churches throughout Lent, because it is associated with mourning and so anticipates the pain and suffering of the crucifixion. Purple is also the colour associated with royalty, and celebrates Christ's resurrection and sovereignty. Most Christians regard Jesus' time 40 days fasting in the wilderness as the key event for the duration of Lent.
Christians remember Maundy Thursday as the day of the Last Supper, when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and established the ceremony known as the Eucharist. The night of Maundy Thursday is the night on which Jesus was betrayed by Judas in the Garden of Gethsemane. Roman Catholic church services feature a ceremony in which the priest washes the feet of 12 people to commemorate Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. Good Friday, the Friday before Easter, commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus and is a day of mourning in church.
Easter Sunday is the commemoration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and is celebrated with great enjoyment by Christians. Churches are usually filled with flowers and the celebrations include the singing of special hymns.
Ascension Day marks the last earthly appearance of Christ after his resurrection. Christians believe Christ ascended into heaven. It is celebrated 40 days after Easter.
Pentecost is celebrated on the seventh Sunday after Easter. Pentecost comes from a Jewish harvest festival called Shavuot. The apostles of Jesus were celebrating this festival when the Holy Spirit descended on them. Pentecost marks the birth of the Christian Church
5.   Easter Traditions
Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day
Shrove Tuesday is the last day before Lent. In earlier days there were many foods that observant Christians would not eat during Lent such as meat and fish, eggs, and milky foods. So that no food was wasted, families would have a feast on the shriving Tuesday, and eat up all the foods that wouldn't last the forty days of Lent without going off.
Pancakes became associated with Shrove Tuesday because they were a dish that could use up perishable foodstuffs such as eggs, fats and milk, with just the addition of flour. Pancake races are thought to have begun in 1445. A woman who was busy cooking pancakes in her kitchen lost track of the time on Shrove Tuesday and when she heard the church bell ringing, she woman raced out of her house and ran all the way to church; still holding her frying pan and wearing her apron.
Many Australian groups and communities make and share pancakes on Shrove Tuesday. Selling pancakes to raise money for charity is also a popular activity.
6.   Popular Symbols of Easter
Easter Eggs
Eggs, symbolizing new life, have long been associated with the Easter festival. Some families and community groups organize Easter egg hunts for children in parks and recreational areas. Easter eggs are traditionally eaten on Easter Sunday, however stores start stocking Easter treats well before the Easter holiday period.
The Easter Bunny
Early on Easter Sunday morning, the Easter Bunny 'delivers' chocolate Easter eggs to children in many parts of the world.
The rabbit and the hare have long been associated with fertility, and have therefore been associated with spring and spring festivals. The rabbit as a symbol of Easter seems to have originated in Germany where it was first recorded in writings in the 16th century. The first edible Easter bunnies, made from sugared pastry, were made in Germany in the 19th century.

1 comment:

  1. This was very informative thanks! I am always hesitant to celebrate Easter at my school because of our diverse population. You know, if you do one you should do them all! I usually just stick to celebrating spring! I hope you'll stop by my blog sometime!

    Second Grade Math Maniac