Easter Celebration and it’s significance
By What is Easter?
Easter is one of the principal holidays, or feasts, of Christianity. It marks the Resurrection of Jesus three days after his death by crucifixion. For many Christian churches, Easter is the joyful end to the Lenten season of fasting and penitence.
Easter is the fulfilled prophecy of the Messiah who would be persecuted, die for our sins, and rise on the third day.
Remembering the resurrection of Jesus is a way to renew daily hope that we have victory over sin. According to the New Testament, Easter is three days after the death of Jesus on the cross.
Easter follows a period of fasting called Lent, in which many churches set aside time for repentance and remembrance. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Good Friday, the day of Jesus’ crucifixion. The 40 day period was established by Pope Gregory 1 using the 40-day pattern of Israel, Moses, Elijah, and Jesus’ time in the wilderness.
The week leading up to Easter is called The Holy Week, or “Passion Week”, and includes Palm Sunday (the day Jesus entered Jerusalem and was celebrated), Maundy Thursday (the “Last Supper” where Jesus met with his disciples to observe Passover), and Good Friday (when Jesus would be crucified on the cross).
Why is Easter celebrated?
Easter is a very significant date within Christianity and is the foundation of the Christian faith. Jesus, the Son of God, fulfilled prophecy and through his death, has given the gift of eternal life in heaven to those who believe in his death and resurrection.
Christian tradition holds that the sins of humanity were paid for by the death of Jesus and that his Resurrection represents the anticipation believers can have in their own resurrection.
Christian and Pagan Traditions on Easter
There are many traditions that surround the entire Lent season, Holy Week, and Easter Sunday. Generally observed traditions across the globe include the Easter bunny, colored eggs, gift baskets, and flowers.
The Easter Bunny
There are several reasons for the rabbit, or hare, to be associated with Easter, all of which come through pagan celebrations or beliefs. The most obvious is the hare’s fertility. Easter comes during spring and celebrates new life. The Christian meaning of new life through Christ and a general emphasis on new life are different, but the two gradually merged. Any animals – like the hare – that produced many offspring were easy to include.
The hare is also an ancient symbol for the moon. The date of Easter depends on the moon. This may have helped the hare to be absorbed into Easter celebrations.
The hare or rabbit’s burrow helped the animal’s adoption as part of Easter celebrations. Believers saw the rabbit coming out of its underground home as a symbol for Jesus coming out of the tomb. Perhaps this was another case of taking a pre-existing symbol and giving it a Christian meaning.
Next to the Easter bunny, the most familiar symbol is the Easter egg. Like others, the egg has a long pre-Christian history. Again there’s no certainty as to why it became associated with Easter.
Many Ancient cultures viewed eggs as a symbol of life. Hindus, Egyptians, Persians, and Phoenicians believed the world begun with an enormous egg. The Persians, Greeks, and Chinese gave gifts of eggs during spring festivals in celebration of new life all around them. Other sources say people ate dyed eggs at spring festivals in Egypt, Persia, Greece, and Rome. In ancient Druid lore, the eggs of serpents were sacred and stood for life.
Early Christians looked at the connection eggs had to life and decided eggs could be a part of their celebration of Christ’s resurrection. In addition, in some areas, eggs were forbidden during Lent; therefore, they were a delicacy at Easter. Since many of the earlier customs were Eastern in origin, some speculate that early missionaries or knights of the Crusade may have been responsible for bringing the tradition to the West.
New Clothes at Easter
New clothes have long been associated with the idea of newness and a fresh beginning. The familiar custom of having new clothes for Easter probably began with early Christians wearing new white robes for baptism during Easter Vigil services. Later, the custom expanded to everyone wearing new clothes in celebration of his or her new life in Christ.
Easter Celebration in some countries
– In Australia, bunnies are considered pests that ruin crops and land. Aussies celebrate with their native marsupial, the Bibly, which has large ears and a more pointy nose.
– In Poland on Easter Monday, boys try to soak people with buckets of water. This tradition has is rooted in the baptism of Polich Prince Mieszko on Easter Monday in 996.
– In Greece, the morning of Holy Saturday is known as the annual “pot throwing” where residents throw pots out of windows. It is a tradition used to mark the beginning of spring and new crops being gathered in new pots.
– In Europe, there are large bonfires called Easter Fires that are lit on Easter Sunday into Monday. The Saxon origin is that the fires will chase away winter and Easter will bring spring.
Easter celebration in Nigeria
In many ways Easter celebrations in Nigeria are like those in other parts of the Christian world.
For Nigerians, It is also a time of feasting, singing, dancing, drumming, all-night vigils, and sunrise services.Although the period before is usually a period of reflection, chastity and holiness.
Some of the Easter Sunday celebrations see people take to the streets in colorful traditional costumes dancing and singing songs of joy, happiness, and salvation.
The 8 days between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday are known as Holy Week. They include Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Gloria Saturday. That week is also called the Passion of Christ. It comes at the end of a 40 day period dedicated to fasting, prayer, penance, and contemplation known as Lent.
For Nigerian Christians, Easter observances starts in earnest on Palm Sunday. Early in the morning on Palm Sunday men women, and children gather for pre-dawn mass. The mood is somewhat somber. The ministers talk about the sacrifice Christ made for the church. They remember the believers that faced persecution, arrest, violence, and imprisonment in the early day of Christianity. The Palm Sunday service last about four hours on average. When the service is over, the believers stream out into the streets waving homemade palm branches, and dancing and singing. People run and walk for miles. Holy Week has begun.
Easter celebrations are very important to Christians in Nigeria. There are no Easter eggs or bunnies. Instead, Easter is a time family members travel from far and wide so the family can be together to celebrate the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Christ Jesus. Families gather together, pray, and remember the sacrifices of Jesus throughout Holy Week. Everyone is expected to make it home by Good Friday to attend church together.
Men, women, and children all dressed in white parade through the streets expressing their joy and thanksgiving for the risen Lord. Worshipers gather together and share food and drink, and love for each other.