A Magical Story and History Of Easter

A Magical Story and History Of Easter

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The ancient Saxons celebrated the return of spring with an uproarious festival commemorating their goddess of offspring and of springtime, Eastre. When the second-century Christian missionaries encountered the tribes of the north with their pagan celebrations, they attempted to convert them to Christianity. They did so, however, in a clandestine manner.

It would have been suicide for the very early Christian converts to celebrate their holy days with observances that did not coincide with celebrations that already existed. To save lives, the missionaries cleverly decided to spread their religious message slowly throughout the populations by allowing them to continue to celebrate pagan feasts, but to do so in a Christian manner.

As it happened, the pagan festival of Eastre occurred at the same time of year as the Christian observance of the Resurrection of Christ. It made sense, therefore, to alter the festival itself, to make it a Christian celebration as converts were slowly won over. The early name, Eastre, was eventually changed to its modern spelling, Easter.

The Date of Easter

Prior to A.D. 325, Easter was variously celebrated on different days of the week, including Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. In that year, the Council of Nicaea was convened by Emperor Constantine. It issued the Easter Rule which states that Easter shall be celebrated on the first Sunday that occurs after the first full moon on or after the vernal equinox. However, a caveat must be introduced here. The “full moon” in the rule is the ecclesiastical full moon, which is defined as the fourteenth day of a tabular lunation, where day 1 corresponds to the ecclesiastical New Moon. It does not always occur on the same date as the astronomical full moon. The ecclesiastical “vernal equinox” is always on March 21. Therefore, Easter must be celebrated on a Sunday between the dates of March 22 and April 25.

The Lenten Season

lent_thumb2Lent is the forty-six day period just prior to Easter Sunday. It begins on Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras (French for “Fat Tuesday”) is a celebration, sometimes called “Carnival,” practiced around the world, on the Tuesday prior to Ash Wednesday. It was designed as a way to “get it all out” before the sacrifices of Lent began. New Orleans is the focal point of Mardi Gras celebrations in the U.S. Read about the religious meanings of the Lenten Season.

The highlight of the year for Christians is Easter, the day when our Lord rose from the dead. Lent is a forty-day season of preparation for Easter. Lent always begins on a Wednesday, called Ash Wednesday.

Why 40 days? Simply because, Jesus fasted and was tempted in the wilderness for 40 days. Lent, then, is our time of fasting, prayer, temptation and repentance. Lent is not required anywhere in scriptures, but it has been a custom, which Christians have practiced for most of the last two thousand years. In many languages, the word “Lent” actually means “fast.” This is where the custom of giving up something for Lent originated.

However, just to confuse things, Lent is actually 46 days rather than 40 days. Why? The 40 days of Lent are supposed to be days of fasting, which means days of discipline and self-restraint. But Sunday, the Lord’s Day, should never be a day of fasting, but a day of celebration! So each Sunday we suspend our Lenten disciplines and celebrate. Lent is 40 “fasting” days spread out over a total of 46 days beginning on Ash Wednesday.

The focus of Lent was always threefold:

It was a time to prepare new converts for baptism through intensive classes and instruction.

It was a time for long-standing Christians to review their lives and renew their commitment to Jesus Christ.

It was a time for backsliders to be restored to the faith.

In every case, it is a time for serious, disciplined self-examination, a time spent in intensive prayer and repentance before the cross of Calvary.

To represent the dark and serious business of Lent, one custom has been to strip the sanctuary of all flowers, candles, and colors during Lent. This custom helps us to turn inward and examine ourselves, even as it reminds us of the dark and colorless Sabbath day when Jesus lay dead in the tomb.

Palm Sunday

 

Palm Sunday is the Sunday before Easter Day. It is to commemorate Jesus’ last journey to Jerusalem, when people cut palm branches to spread on his path as he rode to the city. Many other traditions are associated with Palm Sunday. In some parts of England it used to be called Fig Sunday because people ate fig pies or puddings on that day. In Wales it is called Sul y Blodau, Flowering Sunday.

 

In Greece people like to eat fish on Palm Sunday. In some German towns people decorate poles with streamers and branches of pussy willow. Christians in Lebanon like to wear new clothes on Palm Sunday. In Italy it is regarded as a day or making up quarrels.

Holy Thursday

 

Holy Thursday also referred to as Maundy Thursday. In Europe the Christian monarchs used to wash the feet of poor people on the Thursday before Easter in memory of Jesus’ Act. Also on this day Jesus ate and drank with his followers. This meal became known as the Last Supper, because Jesus died soon after.

 

Good Friday

 

Good Friday is the commemoration of the Trial and Crucifixion of Jesus. In some countries the bells are tolled while in other countries they are silenced until Sunday. A custom also is the eating of Hot Cross Buns. Many superstitions go with hot cross buns such as they are a charm against evil and to keep indefinitely.

 

Easter0191_thumb3An Old Rhyme says:

 

Good Friday comes this month: the old woman runs

 

With one a penny, two a penny hot cross buns;

Whose virtue is, if you’ll believe what’s said,

They’ll not grow moldy like the common bread.

 

Holy Saturday

 

Holy Saturday is part of the period mourning which begins on Good Friday. For Christians in countries such as Bulgaria, Greece and Poland, Hoy Saturday is a day of cooking, ready for the feasting the following day to celebrate the Resurrection.

 

Easter Day

 

Easter day is the Commemoration of the Resurrection of Jesus, with its promise of eternal life. A symbol of the Resurrection is the egg out of which a bird hatches.

 

It is an ancient tradition in Britain to climb the nearest hill to see the sunrise. In America they hold outdoor services at dawn in such places as the Hollywood Bowl. On this day it is also tradition to wear new clothes which have been carried on to the modern “Easter Parade”.

There is always a Feast with various foods in different countries such as hot cross buns in Australia; simnel cake in Britain; pacoca in Brazil; Easter cakes in Finland and Italy; turkey or chicken in Lebanon; and pasenbrood in the Netherlands.

Easter Monday

 

Easter Monday is day of sports and games o various kinds. In Britain Football is the game played. There also is the game of egg shackling in which you hold a hard-boiled egg firmly in your hand and hit against another opponents. Another game is Ducking Monday. The reason was that on this day young girls were thrown in ponds or lakes. The girls were expected to find this funny. They were told it would make them better wives and also that they were more likely to have children.

 

Other Easter Days

 

Eastertide goes on until Whit Sunday, fifty days after Easter day. The day is also known as Pentecost. Several other days during Eastertide are; the first Sunday after Easter is

 

known as Low Sunday. In England the Monday and Tuesday following Low Sunday are called Hocktide. Hocktide Monday is were the women bind and gag them until they pay a ransom, then on Tuesday it’s the men’s turn to do the same in kind to the women. This tradition is at least a thousand years old.

Ascension

 

Ascension is the fortieth day from Easter Day. It was on this day that Jesus ascended into Heaven. Ascension Day falls on a Thursday. The Paschal candle which

lit on Easter Day to mark the resurrection is put out to mark Jesus’ departure from Earth.

The Cross is the symbol of the Crucifixion, as opposed to the Resurrection. However, at the Council of Nicaea, in A.D. 325, Constantine decreed that the Cross was the official symbol of Christianity. The Cross is not only a symbol of Easter, but it is more widely used, especially by the Catholic Church, as a year-round symbol of their faith.

The Easter Bunny is not a modern invention. The symbol originated with the pagan festival of Eastre. The goddess, Eastre, was worshipped by the Anglo-Saxons through her earthly symbol, the rabbit. The Easter bunny has its origin in pre-Christian fertility lore. The Hare and the Rabbit were the most fertile animals known and they served as symbols of the new life during the spring season.

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The Germans brought the symbol of the Easter rabbit to America. The bunny as an Easter symbol seems to have it’s origins in Germany, where it was first mentioned in German writings in the 1500s. The first edible Easter bunnies were made in Germany during the early 1800s. The first bunnies were not made of chocolate; they were made of pastry and sugar.

It was widely ignored by other Christians until shortly after the Civil War. In fact, Easter by its self was not widely celebrated in America until after that time.

As I mentioned the Easter bunny was introduced to American folklore by the German settlers who arrived in the Pennsylvania Dutch country during the 1700s. The arrival of the “Oschter Haws” was considered “childhood’s greatest pleasure” next to a visit from Christ-Kindel on Christmas Eve. The children believed that if they were good the “Oschter Haws” would lay a nest of colored eggs.

The children would build their nest in a secluded place in the home, the barn or the garden. Boys would use their caps and girls their bonnets to make the nests. The use of elaborate Easter baskets would come later as the tradition of the Easter bunny spread

From the earliest times, the egg was a symbol of rebirth in most cultures. Eggs were often wrapped in gold leaf or, if you were a peasant, colored brightly by boiling them with the leaves or petals of certain flowers.

German settlers believed a white hare would leave brightly colored eggs for all good children on Easter morning. Early American children built nests of leaves and sticks in their gardens for the Easter Hare to fill with colored eggs. By the 19th century in America, the Easter Hare had become the Easter Bunny delighting children with baskets of eggs, chocolates, candy chicks, jelly beans and other gifts on Easter morning.

the sunlight of spring and were used in Easter-egg rolling contests or given as gifts. After they were colored and etched with various designs the eggs were exchanged by lovers and romantic admirers, much the same as valentines. In medieval time eggs were traditionally given at Easter to the servants. In Germany eggs were given to children along with other Easter gifts.

Different cultures have developed their own ways of decorating Easter eggs. Crimson eggs, to honor the blood of Christ, are exchanged in Greece. In parts of Germany and Austria green eggs are used on Maundy Thursday (Holy Thursday). Slavic peoples decorate their eggs in special patterns of gold and silver.

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In Germany and other countries eggs used for cooking where not broken, but the contents were removed by piercing the end of each egg with a needle and blowing the contents into a bowl. The hollow eggs were died and hung from shrubs and trees during the Easter Week. The Armenians would decorate hollow eggs with pictures of Christ, the Virgin Mary, and other religious designs.

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Even some facts about Easter candy are interesting. The first chocolate eggs were made in Europe in the early 19th century and remain among the most popular treats associated with Easter. 90 million chocolate Easter bunnies are made for Easter each year. 16 billion jelly beans are made for Easter. Each day, five million marshmallow chicks and bunnies are produced in preparation for Easter. Easter is the second top-selling confectionery holiday behind only Halloween. 88 percent of adults carry on the Easter tradition of creating Easter baskets for their kids. 76 percent of people eat the ears on chocolate bunnies first. Red

jelly beans are kids’ favorite. According to the Guinness Book of World Records the largest Easter egg ever made was just over 25-ft high and made of chocolate and marshmallow. The egg weighed 8,968 lbs. and was supported by an internal steel frame.

Easter, like any other holiday has its own songs. Carols aren’t only sung at Christmas they are also sung at Easter. One such Easter carol its words in Latin began as Tempus adest floridum which can be translated as Spring has now brought forth the flowers.

A French carol for Easter has words which begin Cheer up, friends and neighbors, now its Easter tide. Another Easter carol has the title Easter Eggs and is traditional Russian Song.

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“Here comes Peter Cottontail”

Here comes Peter Cottontail
Hoppin’ down the bunny trail,
Hippity hoppity,
Easter’s on its way
Bringin’ ev’ry girl and boy
A basketful of Easter joy
Things to make your Easter
Bright and gay

He’s got jelly beans for Tommy
Colored eggs for sister Sue
There’s an orchid for your mommy
And an Easter bonnet too. Oh!
Here’ comes Peter Cottontail
Hoppin’ down the bunny trail
Hippity hoppity
Happy Easter Day
Look at him hop and listen to him say,
“Try to do the things you should”
Maybe if you’re extra good
He’ll roll lots of Easter eggs your way
You’ll wake up on Easter morning
And you’ll know that he was there
When you find those choc’late bunnies That he’s hiding ev’rywhere, Oh!
Here’ comes Peter Cottontail
Hoppin’ down the bunny trail
Hippity hoppity
Happy Easter Day

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I remember these things the most from my early childhood. The movie, “Easter Parade” had just come out. Plus, we always got new clothes for Easter and of course everyone wore hats in those days. We always had to have a purse and black paten leather shoes called “Mary Jane’s”, plus one never went out without one’s white gloves. We had Easter Bonnets! We all went to church in the morning and we even walked down Fifth Avenue. I remember when I

was about 12 years old; a lady came along in her bonnet complete with a live leopard on a leash!

Then we have that famous song written by Irving Berlin.

As a child I remember that traditional English song, “Hot Cross Buns”.

Hot cross buns!
Hot cross buns!
One a penny, two a penny,
Hot cross buns!
If you have no daughters
Give them to your sons
One a penny, two a penny,
Hot cross buns

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Speaking of traditional Easter songs, there is a traditional Greek Easter Song.

Easter has come again, Easter, Easter,
With love, with kisses, Easter, Easter,
With eggs and with lamb, Easter, Easter,
With lamb, Christians are happy.

What lovely clothes, Easter, Easter,
What plentiful sweets, Easter, Easter,
What song and voice, Easter, Easter,
Christians are happy.

Another traditional Greek Easter song is about the happiness and joy of carnival time and the wearing of fancy dress and masks to celebrate this festivity and it is called “The Carnival Song”.

The carnival came to us with happiness and joy,
Masqueraders came out again and Joum pa-ra-pa-pa
Masqueraders came out again and Joum pa-ra-pa-pa

Forget poverty and troubles, stop complaining my friends!
Troubles do not fit in with carnival time.

Easter even has its own symbols and meanings. Here are some of them.

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Easter Bells:- Are rung in France and Italy throughout the year but they are not rung on the Thursday before good Friday. They are silent as way to remember the death of Jesus. They are then rung on Easter Sunday as way of telling people Jesus is alive again.

draft_lens1854984module149058639photThe Cross:- This is the symbol for the Christian religion as Jesus was nailed to a cross but then came back to life.

 

 

 

 

The Easter Lily:- The lily was SuperStock_1598R-160903_thumb2a reminder to the Christians of how Jesus came back to life. The white Easter Lily is used in many Easter services. It is supposed to be a symbol of the purity of the Virgin Mary.

Easter Flowers:- Such as daffodil, narcissus and the tulip. Area symbol as they bloom in the spring.

Pussy Willows:- These are especially picked at Easter in England and Russia. People would tap ehyacinth_thumb2ach other on the shoulders with a branch of the pussy willow for good luck

Rabbits:- Rabbits are reminder of spring and new life. They were the favorite animal of the spring goddess Easter.

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The Egg:- These are a symbol of spring as well as Easter. They are a sign of new life.

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Chicks:- The chicks are born from eggs and are a reminder of spring and Easter.

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Candles:- Candles give light in darkness. Jesus is seen as “the eternal light” showing Christians the way from death to life.

Palm Branches:- These are used as a symbol of peace.

Bread:- Unleavened flat bread is eaten to remember Jesus’ sacrifice.

Wine:- Red wine is drunk to remember Jesus shedding His blood for humans.

Fireworks:- These are believed to frighten away evil spirits. They also show that out of darkness comes light.

America, ever a melting pot, has many of its holiday traditions because they were brought to us by immigrants from all over the world. As you read on you will be able recognize the ones you are familiar with or the ones your family celebrates.

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Easter is celebrated around the world.

In many languages Easter has names that come from Pesach. They include the French Paques, the Spanish Pascua and the Italian Pasqua. On Barbados, the festivities mean lots of outdoor concerts and plays.

In the Northern part of Argentina they hold the Carnival. Preparations for the Carnival begin when the algarroba beans are ripe. There are the sounds of singing and jangling of the charango which is a type of ukulele, two drinks called aloja and chicha are prepared in large amounts, and the houses are whitewashed and cleaned. They gather the herb basil and they wear hats and ponchos. This is done to ward of the evil spirits so it is said.

On the Thursday before Ash Wednesday the tincunaco ceremony is celebrated. Mothers and grandmothers are gathered in two lines one line with mothers and the other one the grandmothers around an arch made of willow branches. The arch is decorated with fruit, flowers, cheese, sweets and tiny lanterns. The two groups meet under the arch and exchange a doll which is touched on each other’s forehead. This is seen as a sacred ceremony and is said to unite the women with a bond only death can break.

On Sunday the Carnival reaches its climax. Women in their traditional attire of wide ruffled skirts, colorful ponchos, and white hats mask their faces with starch and water. They sing folksongs and ride on horseback to where the dance is being held in honor of Pukllay which is the Spirit of Carnival. Once the celebrations have come to an end, a rag doll representing Pukllay is buried as a symbol that it is the end of Carnival

In Armenia, Armenian Easter eggs are decorated with pictures of Christ, the Virgin Mary, and other religious designs.

In Australia Easter is celebrated with public holidays, church services, eggs, rabbits and fun. It is celebrated in March or April, which is autumn unlike other countries in the Northern Hemisphere where it is spring. In Sydney, Australia there is an agricultural show known as “the Royal Easter Show”, which has displays of the countries best produce, farm animals, parades, rides, fireworks, food, sideshows and fun.

They enjoy the Easter holidays, which is the end of summer. Especially the children, love Easter eggs, chocolate rabbits, chocolate bilbies and time together with the family.

In Australia the Australians prefer the Bilby as the symbol for Easter as it is native to Australia and also because of the fact that the rabbit has destroyed land, crops, vegetation and burrows of other native Australian species.

In Australia they play a game called Egg Knocking game. To play the Egg Knocking game every one pairs up and everyone then chooses an egg. The two partners take turns tapping their partner’s egg with theirs. The first egg to crack loses and the winner goes on to challenge other winners until there is one egg left.

Austria also enjoys playing the Egg Knocking game. In Austria green eggs are used on Maundy Thursday or Holy Thursday. In Austria a modern festival is held.

In Austria people cook crullers in the fat, which are thick doughnuts.

In Belgium children watch for an old man who flies with the bells to Rome to collect eggs from the Pope.

In Brazil every year since 1950 the village of Fazenda has performed a passion play. Thousands of people watch as volunteers act out the arrest, trial and crucifixion of Jesus.

In Rio de Janeiro one of the world’s most famous carnivals is held before Lent. Carnival means goodbye to meat. This is due to the fact that people don’t eat meat at Lent.

In Brazil groups of people spend most of the year preparing for the carnival. They make costumes, practice music and dances for the parades. Other people make floats for the parade. It is a time for dancing, eating and drinking before the fasting of Lent.

Other towns and cities in Brazil have celebrations during the Carnival period, such as Recife who are well known for their folkloric representations and two well known folk dances, the Maracatu and the Frevo. Holy Week in Brazil begins with the blessing of the palm branches, which are woven in intricate patterns representing crosses, banners, letters, and other related objects. Streets are decorated with colored patterns drawn on the road surface over which a procession walks, carrying statues of Mary and the body of Christ. A special food called pacoca, is prepared by mixing together crushed nuts and other ingredients into a paste, which is given to visitors. On Easter Saturday, Carnival makes a brief reappearance with a Hangover Ball to celebrate the hanging of Judas.

In many parts of England dancers called “Morris dancers” perform on Easter Sunday. These dances are very old spring dances to frighten away the veil spirits of winter. The dancers wear white shorts, red sashes, black trousers and straw hats with lots of flowers and streamers. Red and green ribbons and little bells are tied onto the dancers. As the dancers move

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quickly the bells ring and the ribbons wave. In the town of Olney in Great Britain they have had pancake races on Shrove Tuesday for over 500 years. In Britain, traditionally simnel cake is baked for tea. Originally simnel cakes were given for Mother’s Day. For the game of Pancake Races, everyone gathers in the center of town. The racers hold frying pans with hot pancakes still cooking in them. When the word “Go!” is said they dash to the church, flipping their pancakes as they run. They must flip their pancakes at least three times before they reach the church.

People who live in Olney, a town in England, celebrate Pancake Tuesday with a special event. They hold a pancake race on every Shrove Tuesday for over 500 years.

People in England, hundreds of years ago began eating ham on Easter Sunday.

In some parts of England, these springtime dancers are called Morris Dancers. They wear white shirts and red sashes. They have straw hats with streamers that dip and curl when they dance. Red and green ribbons are tied above the knees of their black trousers. Rows of little bells jingle as the dancers perform. The Morris dance is hundreds of years old.

In England, a favorite custom on Easter Monday and Easter Tuesday was called lifting or heaving. This is where young men went from home to home in the village. They carried a chair decorated with flowers. When a girl or a woman sat in the chair, they lifted her into the air three times. Being lifted was supposed to bring her good luck. She thanked the young men with money and a kiss. On the Tuesday following Easter Monday, it was the women’s turn to lift the men in a chair. In England, pussy willow branches are picked especially for Easter. People tap each other with them for good luck.

In Bulgaria they don’t carry the eggs around or hide them they throw them at each other and whoever comes out of the game with their egg unbroken is the winner and they will be the most successful person of the family for the next year. This is probably were the egg toss games came from.

Or another variation as the eggs is cracked after the midnight service and during the next days. One egg is cracked on the wall of the church. The ritual of cracking the eggs takes place before the Easter lunch. Each person selects his/her egg. Then people take turns tapping their egg against the eggs of others, and the person who ends up with the last unbroken egg is believed to have a year of good luck.

Another tradition is the oldest woman of the family wipes the faces of all the children in the house with the first red egg colored, which is supposed to bring them happiness and keep them healthy and strong. The most predominate tradition is the making of the Easter bread. The bread is made by all women not bought and has a taste that is tasty, sweet, aromatic and rich and shows the temperament of the Bulgarians.

The traditional greeting is “Christ is Risen!” to which is said “Indeed He is Risen!” This is the greeting during 40 days after Pascha. Also, These greetings are exchanged during the tapping of the eggs they are repeated 3 times and the actual tapping is after that.

Because we lived near the Canadian border for many years, we were very familiar with the celebration of Easter in Quebec. In Quebec City, Canada they hold a carnival known as the Winter Carnival which has a big parade and special sporting events such as skating, skiing, and tobogganing. In Quebec, eggs are forbidden during Lent but after fasting, eggs are eaten in maple syrup.

The Sunday before Easter in Chile is celebrated as Palm Sunday or also called Domingo de Ramos. The celebration is held with a mass or in some places as a procession. On Good Friday there is fasting and people eat fish instead of meat. There are programs on radio referred to as “mourning”. Mourning programs are special music and this continues until Sunday morning with the resurrection of Jesus.

In towns around the capital of Santiago people have been celebrating a religious fiesta since the 16th century. The fiesta is known as Quasimodo and is of Latin origin, and represents the first word of an opening prayer which is said in the mass that occurs the first Sunday after Easter.

During Spanish times the day on which Quasimodo is held was the customary day for priests to take Communion to the old and the sick that had been unable to go to church during Easter. Sometimes attacks occurred on priests so a group of guards would accompany the priests safely whilst performing their duties. After the priests performed the Sacrament, the day ended with rodeos and “horsemanship contests”.

At the finish of the day celebrations occur with the Eucharist in an open-air mass. The Fiesta Quasimodo is full of spectacular color, song, and excitement for the huasos which are cowboys or horsemen because it has continued for so many generations.

The Chinese believed in the sacredness of eggs and gave them as gifts during joyful celebrations. Eggs have been a symbol of spring and fertility. For at least 3000 years ago the Chinese painted eggs red for spring festivals. Historic documentation tells us that in 722 B.C. a Chinese Chieftain gave painted eggs as gifts in celebration of a spring festival.

In Crete they make special bread called Paschal bread. It is round with moulded flowers on top, the symbols of spring.

Easter in Czechoslovakia is called Velikonoce and is an important festival with many customs, some of which date back to pre-Christian times.

In Czechoslovakia they are famous for their beautifully decorated Easter eggs, which are done using the batik method.

In Czechoslovakia at Easter they eat wonderful coffee bread called Babovka.

A special food eaten at Easter is Mazanec which is a yeast-raised cake filled with almonds, raisins and citron. A cross is cut into the top of the cake just before it goes into the oven. They celebrate both Easter Monday as well as Easter Sunday. The traditional name for Easter Monday is Whipping Monday, because on this day the village boys used to playfully threaten the girls with switches. In modern times, Easter Monday is a day for open house, when anybody and everybody is likely to drop in. Greetings are exchanged and fruits and cakes are served. It is traditional to serve guests small glasses of plum brandy.

In Egypt the Israelites used lamb’s blood to save their firstborn. The reason was that Jesus was called the “Lamb of God” because His sacrifice forgives humans’ sins.

Lent in the Coptic Church of Egypt lasts for 55 days, which includes a preliminary week of modified fasting. No meat, fish, eggs or milk are supposed to be eaten during Lent. This fasting is extended as Lent goes on so that by Holy Week people are observing a stricter fast, in which they eat mainly vegetables and beans.

On Palm Sunday the church is decorated with palms and flowers, and children are given palm branches blessed with holy water they take home and keep all year.

During Holy Week, people go to church every day. There are services leading up to the main Easter service on Saturday night, which lasts until 3-4 a.m. on Easter morning. Bells are rung to proclaim Christ’s resurrection, and there is a procession with the newly lit candles. Easter Sunday is spent visiting friends and relatives, and there is a special Easter dinner in the afternoon. Easter Monday is a public holiday because of an ancient spring festival which is celebrated on this day. People spend the day outdoors in parks or gardens and exchange colored eggs.

The Ethiopian Easter festival is called Fassika. This festival celebrates the day when Jesus Christ rose from the dead after being crucified. Palm Sunday or Hosaina happens the Sunday before Easter. This day marks the beginning of Holy Week and celebrates the story of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. Ethiopians wear headbands of palm leaves on this day to remind them of the palm leaves that were laid in Jesus’ path.

The period before Easter Sunday is called Lent. During lent, Ethiopian Christians avoid any animal products, such as meat, eggs, butter, milk, yoghurt, cream and cheese. After they have been to the Easter eve service the family returns home to break their fast and later in the afternoon, they share the main celebratory meal of the day.

At the Easter service all Ethiopians wear traditional white clothes, called yabesha libs.

During all their holidays, Ethiopians eat huge special sourdough bread called Dabo. They bake enough to offer a slice to everybody who visits the house. On Easter morning, the bread should be cut, after saying a prayer, by a priest or by the main man of the house.

In Europe, Palm Sunday is called Willow, Yew, or Blossom Sunday. In parts of Europe, Easter Monday was a day for pushing friends into the water. In Finland, on Shrove Tuesday, people cook a pancake called Blini.

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In France, Shrove Tuesday is referred to as Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday. In France, church bells ring joyfully during the year. But the bells stop ringing on the Thursday before Good Friday. They are silent for a few days while people remember the death of Jesus. On Easter Sunday morning, the bells ring out, telling people that Jesus is alive again. When people hear the bells, they kiss and hug one another.

Many children wake up on Easter Sunday and find eggs scattered about their rooms. They look in the nests they have placed in their yards or gardens and find Easter eggs in them. The eggs are said to have been bought from Rome where the bell ringing had gone to see the Pope and when the bells returned they bought with them the eggs.

In some parts of France, children look for four white horses pulling a chariot full of eggs.

In France the children throw eggs up in the air. The first one to drop it loses.

An old French custom was a contest of rolling raw eggs down a gentle slope–the surviving egg was the victory egg and symbolized the stone being rolled away from the tomb.

In France an egg game played is that in which the eggs were thrown up in the air and caught. The boy who dropped his egg had to pay a forfeit.

In France the children are told that it is the church bells that have been to Rome to fetch them their eggs.

In Germany Easter is started by covering the cross on Good Friday. On this day they eat dishes which have fish in them. Easter starts with mass, which is started on Saturday evening and continues until Sunday morning. On Sunday it is Family Day on this day they have a special Easter lunch and they have colored eggs and a cake which is shaped like a lamb.

They also eat other sweet foods such as cookies, cake and chocolate on this day and the best part of the day is the hiding of the eggs and cookies in the garden.

Another tradition is the Easter Fire which is where all the old Christmas trees are gathered up and burnt in a special place, this is done so as to clean away the last signs of winter and moving onto spring.

In Germany green eggs are used on Maundy Thursday or Holy Thursday.

A town in Germany called Oberammergau, performs a passion play at Easter time. A passion play tells the story of the suffering, crucifixion and death of Jesus. 1200 villagers approximately perform in this six-hour play.

In Germany, just before the beginning of Lent, it is carnival time called Fasching. In Fasching parades in the city of Cologne, people wear masks and giant-sized papier-mache heads, sometimes twice the size of their bodies.

Germans cook a type of thick doughnut called a Cruller to use up fat before Lent. In some villages people hold an Easter walk or ride in memory of the walk Jesus took to His death and on Easter Saturday night children light huge bonfires.

They have an egg tree. This is a small tree branch put in a vase about two weeks before Easter. Real eggs that have been painted and decorated are hung from the branches. Other small, highly decorated eggs the family has collected are also hung on the tree.

In Germany, children play a game called Chocolate Kiss. Chocolate Kiss is played with chocolate-covered marshmallows. The object of the game is to gobble up marshmallows without allowing others to smear your face with the chocolate. The winner is the person who can eat the most chocolate marshmallows with the cleanest face.

Egg Gathering is a popular outdoor game in Germany. A long stretch of grass or track is needed for this race. Colored, hard-boiled eggs are placed in a line down the stretch of the grass or track. There must be a line of eggs for each racer. The lines should have equal numbers of eggs. Each racer holds a basket and stands at the start of a line of eggs. When the word “Go!” is shouted, each racer runs down a line of eggs, picking up the eggs in the line and putting them into the basket. The winner is the first one to cross the finish line with all the eggs from his or her line collected in the basket.

Also in Germany, eggs used for cooking are not broken but are emptied by blowing the contents into a bowl through pinholes at either end of the hen’s egg. The hollow eggs are then died and hung from shrubs and trees during Easter week.

Eggs date back to the Roman Empire, when people would paint eggs in bright colors to represent the sunlight of spring for use in egg-rolling contests or as gifts. Eggs represented fertility and were considered good luck.

In Greece, the egg honors the blood of Christ by exchanging Crimson eggs.

In Greece, there are outdoor banquets on Easter Sunday. The feast of barbequed lamb, eggs, bread, salads, and Easter cake is spread on long tables for everyone to enjoy.

In Greece people carry around a brightly colored egg on Easter Sunday. When they meet another person they knock their eggs together and say, “Christ is risen”.

Greeks eat a round, flat loaf marked with a cross that is decorated with red Easter eggs called a Christopsomon.

Easter is a very important family religious festival. Greeks fast through Lent. On Good Friday flags fly at half-mast, church bells toll, then in the evening after holy service a candle-lit procession – priests in their robes, gilt crosses and then the congregation – file to the town square.

Saturday is a day of happy preparation. Churches are decorated and everyone cooks a feast. Easter eve the churches are crowded, everyone with unlit candles. At midnight the lights go out. The priest brings out alighted candle and the flame is passed from one candle to another. “Christos anesti!” Christ is risen, the priest proclaims. Bells, fireworks, jubilation! The next day it’s feasting and merry-making.

In Hawaii, many people believed that the world was created from a giant egg and that the sun was the yolk of the egg. The ancient people of Hawaii thought that this giant egg burst and its pieces formed the Hawaiian Islands.

The week preceding Easter in Hungary is a period of great activity when women spring-clean their homes and bake traditional Easter pastries. In the villages, hardboiled eggs are dyed in various colors and hand-painted with intricate geometrical or stylized floral designs. This is a traditional folk art in Hungary and patterns vary from region to region. Good Friday starts the Easter period on a somber note. Church services are held at 3 o’clock in the afternoon when church-goers all over the country recall the crucifixion of the Savior.

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Easter Sunday, church services are held in the morning. After the service the people carry a statue of Christ and religious banners in a procession through the parish, singing appropriate hymns. Easter Monday in Hungary was referred to as Ducking Monday. Now, boys sprinkle girls with perfume or perfumed water. They wish one another good luck. The girls must reward the boys who spray them. They give the children coins or Easter eggs. Easter Monday is also a day of hospitality when visitors are welcome, Easter greetings are exchanged and guests are served traditional Easter pastries and small glasses of apricot or plum brandy. In Hungary eggs were often decorated with red flowers on a white ground.

In Ireland, people dance in the streets on Easter Sunday. The dancers compete for the prize of a cake. In Ireland Easter is a very sacred time of fasting and prayer. On Easter Saturday at church hundreds of small candles are lit off the Paschal candle that has been blessed by the priest. On Easter Sunday a quiet meal is eaten at home and it consists of the traditional Easter meal of leek soup and roasted spring lamb.

Good Friday was an extremely solemn day in Ireland. Most people eat nothing at all until midday, and went about barefoot. No one killed animals, no wood was burned or made into things, and no nail was driven. No one is aloud to move house, or begin any important enterprise. No one fishes. Eggs that are laid on Good Friday were marked with a cross, and everybody ate at least one of these eggs on Easter Sunday.

On Easter Saturday they use to hold herring processions. These were mock funerals of herrings, and these processions were often held because people became so sick of eating herring during Lent. The processions were often organized by butchers, because they have very little business during Lent. Other things done on Easter Saturday are priests blessing and distributing holy water. Each member of the household was sprinkled, and then the house and the cattle. Easter Sunday people eat large quantities of eggs. Eggs are often dyed or decorated and egg rolling used to be a favorite pastime.

Even Israel has an Easter celebration. Catholics and Protestants celebrate Easter at the same time as the rest of the world, were as Orthodox Christian churches celebrate it two weeks later. At Easter there are many processions where groups travel the route of Jesus Christ’s journey to Golgotha. The route is referred to as the Twelve Stations of the Cross.

People or pilgrims travel form all over the world to this holy event. At one o’clock in the afternoon on Greek Easter Sunday the leader of the church goes into the tomb of Jesus and the doors are closed after him. The lights go out, bells ring and the leader appears with a blazing torch. The torch is said to have been miraculously lit inside the tomb. Everyone in the church lights their candles off the torch and these light up the whole church.

In Italy, church bells ring joyfully during the year. But the bells stop ringing on the Thursday before Good Friday. They are silent for a few days while people remember the death of Jesus. On Easter Sunday morning, the bells ring out, telling people that Jesus is alive again. When people hear the bells, they kiss and hug one another.

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Many children wake up on Easter Sunday and find eggs scattered about their rooms. They look in the nests they have placed in their yards or gardens and find Easter eggs in them. The eggs are said to have been bought from Rome where the bell ringing had gone to see the Pope and when the bells returned they bought with them the eggs.

Olive branches are used on Palm Sunday instead of palm branches. Italians claim to have been said to have been the first to invent chocolate Easter eggs. Pretzels were originally an Easter food. The twisted shape is supposed to represent arms crossed in prayer.

Lent is preceded by a carnival with colorful pageants, masquerades, dancing, music and all kinds of merrymaking. The Carnviale begins in January and lasts until Ash Wednesday, but the ceremonies of the last three days are the gayest, especially those of Martedi Grasso or Shrove Tuesday, when pancakes are eaten.

E107_thumb4An important part of the carnival is the wearing of masks. People wear all types of masks such as small black masks, which represent spirits and witches from the demon world.

One of the most exciting features of the festival is their death of the carnival. For example in Venice the straw body of “King Carnival” is filled with firecrackers and burned at midnight in the Piazza San Marco. The carnival figure is usually represented as a fat man, this is a symbol of the eating and drinking that takes place during this period.

Quaresima or lent, on the other hand, is represented as a lean old woman. Children are often been given the figure of an old woman with seven legs, representing the seven weeks of Lent, and at Mezza Quaresima they cut the figure in two, throwing half away and keeping the other half until the end of Lent.

During Lent, women often used to grow wheat in a dark place, so that the lack of sunlight would make it a white color. This is then used to decorate the altar of the local church during the days leading up to Easter. The white wheat represented Christ’s tomb.

Domenica delle Palme or Palm Sunday, people take palm and olive branches to church to be blessed. When everyone is in the church, the doors are closed to represent the gates of Jerusalem. The priests knock three times, and the gates are then flung open in welcome, and they enter amid joyous music and the waving of palms, this is done to commemorate Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem. The palms are often spread over fields for good luck or patching up quarrels as an expression of peace.

Giovedi Santo or Holy Friday, many churches re-enact the ceremony of the washing of the feet at the altar. They chose 12 poor men from the parish representing the Twelve Disciples, and the priest, acting as Christ, bathes their feet. Easter or La Pasqua is a joyous day. After morning mass people return home for the Easter dinner. The most important dish is agnellino, roasted baby lamb. The table is decorated with colored eggs which have been blessed by the priest. Lamb is eaten with a special salad made with hard-boiled eggs on Easter Sunday.

Easter in Latin America occurs during the autumn, so the churches are often decorated with fruits of the season, as well as flowers and greenery. Displays depicting the events leading up to the crucifixion are also displayed in churches. On Holy Thursday special altars called monumentos, which are decorated with flowers and lighted candles are set up. People will go to visit all the churches that have the monumentos until they have visited seven of the churches. Priests will often wash the feet of 12 altar boys or members of the parish on this day to commemorate the washing of the feet of the disciples by Christ.

Church bells are silent from Holy Thursday to Holy Saturday and matracas are often used to announce the services. This period of mourning however ends on Saturday morning, when the church bells ring out to announce the Mass of Glory, which is a celebration for Christ’s resurrection. Easter Sunday is a very quiet day in most parts of Latin America, with no religious ceremonies being performed.

In Latvia they have colored eggs and use them for games. Here they also played is the Egg-Knocking Game. They eat a dish known as Paska,which is also eaten with a traditional bread known as Kulich a sweet saffron bread.

In Lebanon during lent the children of the villages collect eggs which they color and then use for egg-cracking games at Easter. Traditionally the eggs were dyed colors of brown, green, yellow and red.

Another important Easter preparation is the making of the maamoul. Maamoul are little cakes that are made with semolina and covered with icing sugar and filled with walnuts or dates, they are made during the last couple of weeks during Easter. Each member of each family prepares a different part of the cake such as decorating the cake tops, women preparing their own recipes for the dough, plus hundreds of cakes, which are then laid out on trays or white sheets. The next day after they have been prepared they are taken to the bakery to be cooked.

People go to church on Palm Sunday wearing new clothes or if they cannot afford this at least a new pair of shoes. A ceremony known as shanineh is held at the church. This celebration is a procession in which the children carrying candles are carried around the church on their parents’ shoulders. The candles are decorated with ribbons and flowers.

People fast during Lent and on Good Friday nobody eats any meat or animal products.

During Lent every Friday evening a special church service is performed which re-enacts of the different stages of Christ’s progress to Calvary. These services end on Good Friday, when the statue of Christ is taken down from the altar, placed in a coffin and taken around the church or even the surrounding neighborhood. The statue is left in the coffin during Easter Saturday and the church is in mourning until the Easter Mass held at midnight on Saturday or on Sunday morning.

It is traditional that on the afternoon of Easter Saturday people visit seven churches to be blessed at each. Some people place their dough outside in a tree on Saturday night, believing it will be blessed by Christ. On Sunday evening they place small pieces of the dough in their other food containers, so that these will also become blessed.

Everybody goes to church at Easter, whether it is on Sunday morning or Saturday’s Midnight Mass as it is considered more important at this time then at Christmastime.

Easter Sunday all families hold a special lunch at which turkey or chicken stuffed with nuts is served with rice. The afternoon is spent visiting as many people as possible so

they only visit people for a short time. Each household has the maamoul laid out on a big plate with other delicacies such as chick peas covered with sugar and sugared almonds, these also are offered to guests.

In Malta Easter has been the focus of great festivities, in the churches which have been beautifully decorated, as well as the family observances. Malta once held a Carnival celebration, which was held just before Lent. Nowadays the Carnival is held after Easter in May to coincide with the May Day Labor festival.

The Maltese people visit seven churches to pay their respects and offer devotion on Maundy or Holy Thursday. These processions to churches are led by a person carrying a cross. The Church bells are not rung from this day until Easter Saturday.

On Good Friday a priest delivers a sermon based on the life of Christ including the first Holy Week. The sermon has a choir singing appropriate hymns which are intertwined between various pauses in the sermon. After the service a procession of 8 statues, one of which depicts Christ on the Cross, is lead through the church out around the parish and back to the church. The procession is followed by a band playing funeral marches.

On Easter Saturday all the church bells ring. People at about 11pm begin to gather at the church to take part in the Easter Vigil. The priest intones the joyful hymn “Exultet” – “Let us rejoice the Lord is risen”. People exchange greetings as each person carries a candle lit from the Paschal candle.

On Sunday morning a procession is held in which the statue of Christ carries a flag, and a band plays joyful marches. This procession is followed by a family get-together for a large lunchtime meal of spring lamb, baked potatoes and local vegetables. After dinner, a figolla is given to each child.

This is a baked confectionery pastry, cut in the shapes of Christian symbols. Nowadays chocolate eggs or rabbits are also given to children.

In Mexico, Easter is a combination of Semana Santa or Holy Week which is Palm Sunday to Easter Saturday and Pascua which is Resurrection Sunday until the following Saturday.

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Semana Santa celebrates the last days of the Christ’s life. Pascua is the celebration of the Christ’s Resurrection. It is also the release from the sacrifices of Lent.

In many communities, they may enact a full Passion Play from the Last Supper, the Betrayal, the Judgement, the Procession of the 12 Stations of the Cross, the Crucifixion and last but not least the Resurrection. In some communities, flagellation and/or real crucifixion might also be included. The enactments are often spectacularly staged, costumed and acted, with participants preparing for their roles for nearly the full year leading up to Semana Santa.

In Mexico they have parades each day of the last week of lent. The parade held on Good Friday is the saddest. The parade winds through the dark streets early in the morning.

Drums beat and church bells ring slowly. People in the parade carry large statues of Jesus and his mother, Mary. There are crowds of people watching the procession go by. They sing sad songs. They sometimes carry candles to brighten the darkness. Everyone is sad on this day, but in two days it will be Easter Sunday, a time to be happy again.

In the Netherlands the day before Lent begins is Carnival day which is referred to as Vastenavond or Fast Eve. In South Holland the celebrations begin on the Sunday and last for three days. Preparations begin the previous year on 11th day of the 11th month, when a council of 11 meet to organize the plans. Traditionally the number 11 is the number for fools, and during Carnival people are allowed to be as foolish as they wish. At this time dances are popular, parades and masquerade balls. In each town someone is elected prince of the Carnival and he is handed the keys to the city.

On Palm Zondag or Palm Sunday children go in processions from farm to farm collecting eggs for the Easter sports. To find the eggs they carry a curiously decorated stick known as a Palmpaas or Easter “palm”. This stick is attached to a hoop which is covered with boxwood and adorned with colored paper flags, egg shells, sugar rings, oranges, raisins, figs, chocolate eggs, small cakes and baked dough figures or swans or cocks.

On Easter Sunday or as it is known in the Netherlands Paas Zondag there is a special Easter meal. The table is decorated with colored eggs and spring flowers, and Paasbrood which is a sweet

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bread with raisins and currants, is one of the special foods traditionally served at Easter. In the east almost every village lights an Easter bonfire on some hill or high point. People begin collecting wood for the fires weeks in advance; each area tries to outdo each other by building the biggest and best fire than its neighbors.

Easter Monday is a day for egg games. The youngest children hunt for

colored eggs which have been hidden around the house or in the garden, while the older children have egg cracking contests or as it is also known eiertikken contests.

Easter Holiday is strongly rooted in Norwegians. Officially it’s holiday from Good Thursday until Easter Day. Most Norwegians to go up to the mountains for the snow. It is believed that the reason why do this is that the first Norwegian was the tribe’s fool. At the end of the last glacial epoch, he left the tribe and stumbled after the retreating ice ending up in Norway. The conclusion is very simple that he is still doing the same thing! When one, unbelievably, has survived yet another cold, dark and freeze wintertime and the magic of spring at last occurs then the Norwegians still go up to the mountains hunting for snow and ice. In Norway everyone plays the game known as the egg-knocking game.

In Papua New Guinea the old beliefs have blended with Christian beliefs that had been introduced in the last century, which now form unique traditions for this part of the world.

In the Trobriand Islands Good Friday is regarded as the most important religious event in the year. About mid-morning a large number of people gather for a service in the settlement of Losuia. The youth from the surrounding villages present musical and other items on an Easter theme at this service. After the service is over the entire people divide into small groups of family and friends for feasts in various homes.

On Easter Sunday another church service is held, at this service there is the Easter Tree. At the front of the church is a small tree or if they are unable to have a tree several branches are tied together, on which sticks of tobacco and packets of cigarettes are hung. After the service, these are distributed amongst the congregation. The people then return to their homes for a feast of leftovers usually from the Friday feast.

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In the Philippines street parades are held on Good Friday with people carrying large crosses to re-enact Jesus’ walk to His crucifixion.

In Poland they celebrate Easter with the Blessing Basket. They prepare the basket the Saturday before Easter. Inside the basket they place beautifully colored eggs, bread, cake, salt, paper and

white colored sausages and with the basket they then go to church to have the basket of food blessed. It is believed that Great Lent which is the forty day fast before Easter is not over until the basket has been blessed hence the reason why it is called Blessing Basket.

All that is contained in the basket is of meaning such as the colored eggs mean the risen Christ, the bread and salt are for good health and a prosperous life, the sausages are supposed to be a wish for enough food and fertility for the coming spring. There is also cheese and marzipan which are another part of the Easter basket.

Another tradition is the tradition of Watering which is where everyone splashes each other with water as this is considered to bring good health to all. No one is safe from this tradition and for over 800 years Easter Monday has been “Switching Day”. On this day boys swat their girlfriends with a small willow branch. On Easter Tuesday the girls get even by swatting the boys. At Easter a cake like bread is eaten. It is shaped like a peasant woman’s full skirt and it is the custom to decorate the eggs with rug yarn.

Dyngus or Smingus Dyngus is celebrated in Poland on the first Monday after Easter. On this day boys lie in wait to sprinkle girls with water or perfume. It is said that girls who get caught and soaked with water will marry within the year. This may be the very reason why some girls make feeble attempts to escape the dousing.

This custom of dousing may be of pagan origin since the pouring of water is an ancient Spring symbol of cleansing and purification. Another theory is that this represents the renewal of the sacrament of baptism after Christ has risen. Also, according to legend, the Polish ruler, Prince Mieszko the First was baptized in 966 on Easter Monday.

The first recorded account of Dyngus dates back to the Middle Ages when the custom was known as Oblewania. Evidently, the women were given ample time to retaliate. The old chronicle says that “on Tuesday and every day thereafter until the time of the Green Holidays or Pentecost where the women doused the men.

In Poland, the food is set out ready all day long, so that everyone can eat just when they feel like it. The table is decorated with green leaves and a sugar lamb may be placed as a centre-piece. At the feast there is cold meats and salads and plenty of eggs. Children take samples of food to church to be blessed by the priest. The kitchen table is covered with evergreen leaves and then Easter food is put on it. Before anything is eaten it must blessed first by the priest.

easter_113134802_540x388_thumb2In Romania the Christian Church says that Jesus was born during the winter solstice and his death followed by his resurrection happened during the spring equinox, the Easter.

The most important Christian holiday is the day of Jesus’ Resurrection. Cleaning the houses, wearing new clothes, the ritual bath before going to church, all these are supposed to mark a new beginning. After a long fast – the Lent, tables full with all sorts of good dishes and brightened up with beautiful painted eggs create a festive atmosphere. Children are the happiest of all looking for their gifts and colored eggs in the newly grown grass.

Everybody, including the peasants, are beautifully dressed in their national costumes, with lit candles in their hands, gathered together around the churches at midnight in order to solemnly utter:” Jesus Christ has risen from the dead”. Everywhere around the churches, on the hills or in the plains, people light fires and sing Our Savior’s praises.

After the service, their is a multitude of flaring lit candles, a most uplifting and touching sight, make for home where people clink Easter eggs with beautifully dyed or exquisitely painted shells. The craftsmanship of dyeing the eggs at Easter, is an ancient tradition with Romanians, is due to the belief that eggs represent the source of life. The egg, preserver of the mystery of the origin of life, has always been related to the rites of the revival of nature. There is definitely a close link between Easter, the egg and the vernal equinox as the three of them cheese, cake, lamb roast and broth, drob which is a spiced minced lamb and fresh cottage cheese.

In Russia Christians go to church late on Easter Saturday night. At midnight they go out and walk around the outside of the church singing songs. The priest knocks on the door and everyone goes in to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. The priest blesses the people’s food and they return home to have a happy feast. It has been a custom to give friends and family brightly decorated eggs at Easter time, exchanged with the happy saying, “Christ is risen”. Over a hundred years ago a jeweler called Faberge began making beautiful Easter eggs out of gold, silver, diamonds and other precious stones. Russians eat lamb, chicken, pork, bread, and Easter cake. Easter Sunday is a happy day of eating and visiting and pussy willow branches are picked especially for Easter. People tap each other with them for good luck.

In Scotland, Easter is a very important day for the Church of Scotland. In many parts of Scotland huge fires used to be lit on Easter Saturday, a tradition that dates back to the pagan era when spring festivals were held at this time

To celebrate Easter in Slavia, Slavic people decorate their eggs in special patterns of gold and silver. In Slavic countries, baskets of food including eggs are taken to church to be blessed on Holy Saturday before Easter Midnight Mass. The eggs are then eaten for Easter breakfast.

In South America festivals are held with a blend of Inca practices, customs of African cults and native religions all mixed up with Christian beliefs.

In Rio de Janeiro one of the world’s most famous carnivals is held before Lent. Carnival means goodbye to meat. This is due to the fact that people don’t eat meat at Lent.

In Brazil groups of people spend most of the year preparing for the carnival. They make costumes, practice music and dances for the parades. Other people make floats for the parade. It is a time for dancing, eating and drinking before the fasting of Lent.

In Peru Easter is the most important time of the year. Easter is celebrated every day of the Holy Week. Statues of Jesus are paraded through the streets. People dress in their best clothes. Celebrations are outdoors with dancing, feasting and drinking of Chicha, a beer made from corn. Sweets called Besitos, a mixture of condensed milk and desiccated coconut, are sold on the streets.

In some parts of South America there are parades held each day of the last week of lent. The parade held on Good Friday is the saddest. The parade winds through the dark streets early in the morning. Drums beat and church bells ring slowly. People in the parade carry large statues of Jesus and his mother, Mary. There are crowds of people watching the procession go by. They sing sad songs. They sometimes carry candles to brighten the darkness. Everyone is sad on this day, but in two days it will be Easter Sunday, a time to be happy again.

Celebrating Easter in Spain on Palm Sunday, people go to mass in the morning. Children carry palm leaves to be blessed by the priest. Boys carry a simple palm branch, and the girls carry a branch that has been decorated. They often have sweets, tinsel or other decorations hanging from them.

In Christian churches, Ash Wednesday is the first day of the penitential season of Lent, so called this ceremony for it is the ceremony of placing ashes on the forehead as a sign of penitence. In the Roman Catholic Church, ashes obtained from burned palm branches of the previous Palm Sunday are blessed before mass on Ash Wednesday. The priest places the blessed ashes on the foreheads of the officiating priests, the clergy, and the congregation, while reciting over each one the following: “Remember that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return”.

Lent is a period of fasting and penitence in preparation for Easter. The length of the Lenten fast, during which the observant eat sparingly, was established in the 4th century as 40 days. The 40-day period begins on Ash Wednesday and extends, with the omission of Sundays, to the day before Easter.

On Maundy Thursday there is a special celebration in Verges (Gerona). A macabre dance is performed by men dressed as skeletons.

In Spain, the saints or pasos are carried through the streets by specially chosen people, some of whom wear the traditional hooded costumes of the community.

If you find yourself in Sweden you will discover that Easter week starts with Palm Sunday, which is commemorating Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem. This is a day of joyous processions of people carrying branches of early budding willows to lay before the images of Christ.

There are certain superstitions attached to Easter. People believed that witches were especially active and their black magic especially powerful during this week. On Maundy Thursday they were thought to fly off on brooms to consort with the devil at some place called blåkulla, returning the following Saturday.

Another superstition on Maundy Thursday or Easter Eve Swedish girls and boys dress up as hags and pay visits to their neighbors. Some leave a small decorated card, an “Easter letter”, hoping for a sweet or coin in return. The custom of making “Easter letters” is especially widespread in western Sweden. This is where it is also the custom to slip the letter into a person’s mailbox or under his door without being seen. The identity of the sender is a secret.

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Easter bonfires are also especially the custom in the western provinces, where villages vie to see who can make the biggest one. The custom of shooting also lives on, albeit in the form of shooting off fireworks.

Eggs are the most common Easter food, and hard boiled eggs are traditionally eaten the evening before Easter Sunday. While the eggs are often decorated, neither their decorations nor the traditions

associated with them are as elaborate as in many countries on the continent.

On Good Friday in Northern Sweden there was a custom which wasn’t that pleasant for the girls… Early in the morning the boys in the village gathered, equipped with birch twigs. Then they went to every farm in the neighborhood and whipped the girls with the branches until they gave the boys something to drink, and that wasn’t water… After some visits to the farm the boys usually lost a bit of their judgment and sometimes it could be rather unpleasant for the girls… On the other hand, the girls got their revenge on the night between Easter day and Easter Monday when they in turn gathered to give the boys some of their own medicine.

On the Wednesday before Easter known as Dymmelsonsdagen it was common practice to fasten some kind of object for obvious reason, something which would make the bearer silly on the back of some poor unsuspecting victim. The whole point was that the victim shouldn’t notice the object and walk around with it the whole day.

Ukrainians decorate eggs in a special way called Pysanky. They make beautiful designs with

beeswax on eggs. The beeswax is melted and a special stylus or pen is dipped in the wax. A wax design is painted onto the egg with the stylus. Then the egg is dipped in the dye. The dyed egg is carefully held over a candle flame and the wax melted off. Now, there is a beautiful white pattern on the dyed egg.

The egg designs are very delicate and complicated. The patterns

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for the designs are passed down from parents to children over the years.

During the pre-Easter period, the spring cleaning is done. The houses are plastered and whitewashed; everything is taken out of the house and washed or wiped; and all the rubbish is taken and burned outside the village.

Palm Sunday is called Willow Sunday, and willow boughs are blessed in the church.

Holy Week is called white or pure week. People try to finish all their work in the fields before Thursday, because from then on work is forbidden. On the evening of Holy Thursday, a special Passion service is held at the church, and people leave with lighted candles. They try to get home without letting the candle go out. This candle is kept until next year.

On Good Friday nobody does any work. Until Easter Sunday the ringing of the church bells is replaced by the beating of wooden clappers or the striking of a mallet on a board.

On Easter Day known as the Great Day, the church bells are rung at short intervals all day to remind people that this is the greatest feast of the year.

Easter Sunday begins with a church service where the Easter cakes and Easter eggs are blessed by the clergy. Butter, lard, cheese, roast suckling pigs, sausage, smoked meat, and little napkins with poppy seeds, millet, salt, pepper and horseradish wrapped in them are also blessed. After the service, people exchange Easter greetings and eggs, and then they hurry home with their “holy food”.

In Uruguay the week before Lent comes in autumn and coincides with Native Week or as it is known Semana Criolla. The festivities centre around the gaucho shows.

The largest and most elaborate of the shows is held in Prado in Montevideo. Most businesses are closed for the whole week, although the official carnival is held on the two days before Ash Wednesday. Everywhere is decorated and many people visit the streets. People in masquerade parade around the streets, singing and dancing, as well flower battles are held.

In Wales Palm Sunday is called Flowering Sunday, and families traditionally visit the graves of their relatives to lay flowers on the graves. On this day they also have famous Welsh singing contests which are known as Gymansa Ganu. Choirs from various chapels in the area come together to take part in these festivals and at these festivals

special conductors are invited and a feature of Easter used to be the preaching services held in the chapels. There would be another on the Saturday night, and then three on Easter Sunday itself. The town of Ffestiniog used to hold another three services on Easter Monday as well. People would flock to these services at which ministers from other towns and villages would be asked as guest preachers. These preachers would take these events of the first Holy Week to use in sermons.

Yugoslavian Easter eggs bear the XV for Christos vakrese or “Christ is risen”, which is a traditional Easter greeting. In Yugoslavia like other European countries a traditional meal of Sunky or similar is had, as well as boiled smoked ham served with hard-boiled eggs, fresh horseradish and white bread. It is also a custom to have a basket of 5 dyed eggs at the table. This represents Christ’s wounds.

As I said, because America is a melting pot of many cultures, Easter in the US is celebrated in many different ways by many different religions. Mostly it is celebrated with traditional church services and family festive celebrations. On Easter Sunday in New York and other cities, large street parades are held where people show off their new clothes and Easter bonnets. The parade is often led by someone carrying a candle or a cross.

American children play a game called Easter Egg Roll. This is where a group of people roll eggs down a steep incline, racing to see which egg gets to the bottom first. Since the eggs are pretty much the same, and the hill is pretty much the same, the determining factor seems to be the speed of release, making this a game that favors hyperactive kids with fast reflexes. The rules of an Easter Egg Roll are to see who can roll an egg the greatest distance or can make the roll without breaking it, usually down a grassy hillside or slope and maybe the most famous egg rolling takes place on the White House Lawn. Hundreds of children come with baskets filled with brightly decorated eggs and roll them down the famous lawn, hoping the President of the United States is watching the fun. In America, we also enjoy a game called the Easter egg hunt. The parents hide the eggs indoors or outdoors, and the children get a basket and see how many they can find and put into their basket.

The world’s most famous Mardi Gras carnival is held each year in New Orleans. It has parades, jazz bands and parties where everybody dresses up and joins in the fun. Groups of people called krewes prepare decorated floats with a Mardi Gras king and queen. Mardi Gras means ‘Fat Tuesday’ and only refers to Shrove Tuesday. The day after Mardi Gras is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent.

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