EASTER   Leave a comment

DEFINITION:1 an annual Christian festival celebrating the resurrection of Jesus, held on the first Sunday after the date of the first full moon that occurs on or after March 21 2 the Sunday of this festival.

The greatest festival of the Christian church commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is a movable feast; that is, it is not always held on the same date. In AD 325 the church council of Nicaea decided that it should be celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the vernal equinox of March 21. Easter can come as early as March 22 or as late as April 25.

In many churches Easter is preceded by a season of prayer, abstinence, and fasting called Lent. This is observed in memory of the 40 days’ fast of Christ in the desert. In Eastern Orthodox churches Lent is 50 days. In Western Christendom Lent is observed for six weeks and four days.

Good Friday, the Friday before Easter; observed in churches as the anniversary of the crucifixion of Christ; legal holiday in some states of the U.S.

Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, gets its name from the practice, mainly in the Roman Catholic church, of putting ashes on the foreheads of the faithful to remind them that “man is but dust.” Palm Sunday, one week before Easter, celebrates the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. Holy Week begins on this day. Holy Thursday, or Maundy Thursday, is in memory of the Last Supper of Christ with his disciples. Good Friday commemorates the crucifixion.

Many Easter customs come from the Old World. The white lily, the symbol of the resurrection, is the special Easter flower. Rabbits and coloured eggs have come from pagan antiquity as symbols of new life. Easter Monday egg rolling, a custom of European origin, has become a tradition on the lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C.

Lent may be preceded by a carnival season. The origin of the word carnival is probably from the Latin carne vale, meaning “flesh (meat), farewell.” Elaborate pageants often close this season on Shrove Tuesday, the day before the beginning of Lent. This day is also called by its French name, Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday).

The name Easter comes from Eostre, an ancient Anglo-Saxon goddess, originally of the dawn. In pagan times an annual spring festival was held in her honour Some Easter customs have come from this and other pre-Christian spring festivals. Others come from the Passover feast of the Jews, observed in memory of their deliverance from Egypt.

The word paschal comes from a Latin word that means “belonging to Passover or to Easter.” Formerly, Easter and the Passover were closely associated. The resurrection of Jesus took place during the Passover. Christians of the Eastern church initially celebrated both holidays together. But the Passover can fall on any day of the week, and Christians of the Western church preferred to celebrate Easter on Sunday the day of the resurrection.

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Posted 2012/04/04 by Stelios in Education

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