Today we will be looking into the Wonderful Holiday known as Easter. This year Easter is on April 21st. I will be giving you information about; the History both Religious and Secular, how it is Celebrated around the World, and How Peeps and Chocolate Bunnies are made. I will embed Easter Family Friendly movies, Easter books read aloud, and even some links to Easter-themed coloring pages for all ages. If this interests you in the slightest, please scroll down.
Origin of Easter: From pagan festivals and Christianity to bunnies and chocolate eggs
Well, it turns out Easter actually began as a Pagan festival that celebrated Spring in the Northern Hemisphere, long before the advent of Christianity. “Since pre-historic times, people have celebrated the equinoxes and the solstices as sacred times,” University of Sydney Professor Carole Cusack said. “The spring equinox is a day where the amount of dark and the amount of daylight is exactly identical, so you can tell that you’re emerging from winter because the daylight and the dark have come back into balance. “People mapped their whole life according to the patterns of nature.” Following the advent of Christianity, the Easter period became associated with the resurrection of Christ. “In the first couple of centuries after Jesus’s life, feast days in the new Christian church were attached to old pagan festivals,” Professor Cusack said. “Spring festivals with the theme of new life and relief from the cold of winter became connected explicitly to Jesus having conquered death by being resurrected after the crucifixion.”
Easter’s changing date
In 325AD the first major church council, the Council of Nicaea, determined that Easter should fall on the Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox. That is why the date moves and why Easter festivities are often referred to as “moveable feasts”. “There’s a defined period between March 25 and April 25 on which Easter Sunday must fall, and that’s determined by the movement of the planets and the Sun,” Professor Cusack said.
Pascha, Easter and the goddess of spring
In most countries in Europe, the name for Easter is derived from the Jewish festival of Passover. “So in Greek, the feast is called Pascha, in Italian Pasqua, in Danish it is Paaske, and in French it is Paques,” Professor Cusack said. But in English-speaking countries, and in Germany, Easter takes its name from a Pagan Goddess from Anglo-Saxon England who was described in a book by the eighth-century English monk Bede. “Eostre was a goddess of spring or renewal and that’s why her feast is attached to the vernal equinox,” Professor Cusack said. “In Germany, the festival is called Ostern, and the Goddess is called Ostara.”
Rabbits and eggs as ancient symbols of new life
Many of the Pagan customs associated with the celebration of spring eventually became absorbed within Christianity as symbols of the resurrection of Jesus. “Eggs, as a symbol of new life, became a common people’s explanation of the resurrection; after the chill of the winter months, nature was coming to life again,” Professor Cusack said. During the Middle Ages, people began decorating eggs and eating them as a treat following mass on Easter Sunday after fasting through Lent. “This is actually something that still happens, especially in eastern European countries like Poland,” Professor Cusack said. “The custom of decorating hard-boiled eggs or blown eggs is still a very popular folk custom.” Rabbits and hares are also associated with fertility and were symbols linked to the Goddess Eostre. The first association of the rabbit with Easter, according to Professor Cusack, was a mention of the “Easter hare” in a book by a German professor of medicine Georg Franck von Franckenau published in 1722. “He recalls folklore that hares would hide the colored eggs that children hunted for, which suggests to us that as early as the 18th century, decorated eggs were hidden in gardens for egg hunts,” Professor Cusack said.
Commercialisation, confectionery and greeting cards
Commercialisation during the 19th century saw rabbits become a popular symbol of Easter with the growth of the greeting card industry. “Postage services became affordable and people wanted to keep in touch with people,” Professor Cusack said. “Card companies like Hallmark became big by launching images of cute little rabbits and Easter eggs on cards.”
The first edible Easter bunnies made from sugared pastry were made in Germany in the 19th century. Big confectionery companies, like Cadbury in England, started manufacturing chocolate eggs. “Chocolate that used to be something that’s bitter and drunk became something that was sweetened and turned into a confectionery treat,” Professor Cusack said. “Easter eggs were one of the areas of marketing for chocolate.” Today, chocolate eggs and egg hunts are a popular part of Easter celebrations around the world.
How Easter is Celebrated around the World
“Sprinkling, also known as “Ducking Monday,” is a popular Hungarian Easter Monday tradition, in which boys playfully sprinkle perfume, cologne or water over a young woman’s head, and ask for a kiss.
People used to believe that water had a cleaning, healing and fertility-inducing effect.
The springtime festival of Easter is celebrated with folk traditions in Hungary. The Easter eggs are considered to be more of a decorative item as part of the Hungary Easter traditions.
In the town of Haux, a giant omelet made with 4,500 eggs that feed 1,000 people is served up in the town’s main square. The story goes, when Napoleon and his Army were traveling through the south of France, they stopped in a small town and ate omelets. Napoleon liked his omelet so much that he ordered the townspeople to gather their eggs and make a giant omelet for his Army the next day.
Easter is known as Paques in France. The main celebration sets off on Good Friday with a somber note. To mourn the crucifixion of Christ, church bells are not rung for three days.
On Easter morning, the children hurry into the garden to watch the bells “Fly back from Rome”.
Besides being crazy football fans, there’s a crazy tradition of creating straw dolls to represent Judas (the apostle known for betraying Christ) and hanging them in the streets and beating them up. And many times politicians involved in scandals become Judas.
But, it’s not all aggression, and on Easter, Saturday, called ‘Sábado de Aleluia,’ inspires mini versions of Carnaval in many small towns to celebrate the end of Lent.
One of the biggest Easter celebrations takes place in Seville, where 52 different religious brotherhoods parade through the streets manifesting the crucifixion, with thousands watching the daily processions of marching bands and decorated candle lit floats heaving with Baroque statues illustrating the Easter story.
The town of Verges commemorates Holy Thursday with the Dansa de la Mort (Death Dance). During this night procession, participants dress up like skeletons and reenact scenes from the Passion. The last skeletons in the parade carry a box of ashes with them. On the other side of the country, residents of Almaden de la Plata have a custom of placing straw effigies of famous people around the city (similar to The Burning of Judas), then tearing them up and throwing the pieces in the air.
The traditional of “Pot Throwing” takes place on the morning of Holy Saturday. People throw pots, pans, and other earthenware out of their windows, smashing them on the street.
Some say the custom of throwing of pots welcomes spring, symbolizing the new crops that will be gathered in new pots. Others say it derives from the Venetians, who on New Year’s Day used to throw out all of their old items.
Known for practicing religious fervor through Orthodox Christianity, Greece observes Easter as its main religious festivity, according to the ancient Greek religious calendar.
There are around seven million Catholics in Indonesia, Christianity was brought here by Portuguese missionaries, and statues from this time are carried through the streets. Young men consider it an honor to be chosen to play Jesus and be tied to the cross in various locations.
On Easter Monday there’s a tradition in which men spank women with handmade whips made of willow and decorated with ribbons.
According to legend, the willow is the first tree to bloom in the spring, so the branches are supposed to transfer the tree’s vitality and fertility to the women. This is meant to be playful spanking all in good fun and not to cause pain.
Dominated by the Christian faith, Italy celebrates Easter with great fanfare and vigor. Known as ‘Pasqua‘ in Italian, Easter makes the entire country have fun with games and concerts.
In Prizzi, Sicily, “the Abballu de daivuli is a representation of devils from locals wearing terrifying masks of zinc and dressed in red robes,” according to The Telegraph. Those dressed in costume pester as many “souls” as they can (which really means making them pay for drinks) before the afternoon when the Virgin Mary and the risen Christ save the day by sending the devils away with angels.
A huge, decorated wagon is dragged through the streets by white oxen until it reaches the cathedral, and when Gloria is sung inside the cathedral Archbishop sends a dove-shaped rocket into the cart, igniting a large fireworks display. This is known as “Scoppio del Carro“.
Scoppio del Carro (explosion of the cart), this is followed by a parade in medieval costumes. It’s meant to be a sign of peace and a good year ahead.
South of Florence is the town Panicale, where the big celebration happens the day after Easter (called Pasquetta, or little Easter). Locals gather for the annual Ruzzolone, a competition that involves rolling huge wheels of Ruzzola cheese around the perimeter of the village.
The day before Easter, families prepare a “blessing basket.” It’s filled with colored eggs, sausages, bread, and other important food and taken to church to be blessed. In Polish culture, Lent isn’t over until a priest blesses this basket.
Like their Italian neighbors, the Polish save their most notable tradition for the day after Easter: Smigus Dyngus. Young boys try to get girls (and each other) wet with water guns, buckets of water, and any other means they can think of.
Legend has it that girls who get soaked will marry within the year.
Some Australian kids are visited by the Easter Bunny, but rabbits are considered pests because they destroy the land. (Come on, Australia—They’re so cuddly!) So some Australians associate Easter with a different animal.
In 1991, the Anti-Rabbit Research Foundation started a campaign to replace the Easter Bunny with the Easter Bilby.
Bilbies ( also known as the rabbit-eared bandicoot ) have big, soft ears like rabbits and long noses like mice, and they’re endangered, another reason for publicity around the campaign.
kids now devour chocolate bilbies made by companies including Haigh’s Chocolates, which created the first chocolate Easter Bilby over two decades ago. The Aussie firm donates a portion of its proceeds to help save the endangered species. For more information on the Aussie firms donations, click the link. https://www.haighschocolates.com.au/about-us/the-bilby/
Children in this Scandinavian country dress up as witches and go begging for chocolate eggs in the streets with made-up faces and scarves around their heads, carrying bunches of willow twigs decorated with feathers.
In some parts of Western Finland, people burn bonfires on Easter Sunday, a Nordic tradition stemming from the belief that the flames ward off witches who fly around on brooms between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
On Good Friday, the locals celebrate by flying homemade kites, eating codfish cakes and hot cross buns.
The tradition is said to have begun when a local teacher from the British Army had difficulty explaining Christ’s ascension to Heaven to his Sunday school class. He made a kite, traditionally shaped like a cross, to illustrate the Ascension.
Here people don’t hide their eggs — they have egg fights – and whoever comes out of the game with an unbroken egg is the winner and assumed to be the most successful member of the family in the coming year. In another tradition, the oldest woman in the family rubs the faces of the children with the first red egg she has colored, symbolizing her wish that they have rosy cheeks, health and strength.
Whilst in many countries Easter eggs are hidden and children hunt for them, in Germany Easter eggs are displayed on trees and prominently in streets, with some of the trees having thousands of multi color eggs hanging on them. In Germany, Easter is known by the name of Ostern. Easter holidays for children last for about three weeks. Good Friday, Easter Saturday and Easter Sunday are the days when people do not work at all.
And of course in the United States, the President hosts the annual Easter Egg Roll on the White House lawn on Easter Monday. The tradition, believed to date back to the early 19th century, involves children rolling a colored hard-boiled egg with a large serving spoon.
How Peeps are made
How chocolate bunnies are made
Family Friendly Easter Movies
The Story Keepers – The Easter Story – Jesus stories
Here Comes Peter Cottontail – 1971
The Berenstain Bears’ Easter Surprise (1981)
The First Easter Rabbit
The Easter Bunny is Comin to Town (1977)
Kids Easter Movies playlist
Easter Stories for kids
Easter Coloring page websites for kids
- Mom Junction:https://www.momjunction.com/articles/colorful-easter-coloring-pages-for-your-little-ones_0081673/#gref
- Ministry to Children:https://ministry-to-children.com/easter-coloring-pages/
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