For Christians, Easter is one of the holiest festivals of the year, marking the day of Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead.
This of course is in spite of the fact that the roots of the Easter holiday’s traditions can be traced back to pagan celebrations that existed millennia before the coming of Christianity.
And indeed today, for many people, the Easter celebration has a secular feel: why not take Good Friday and Easter Monday, and make it a four-day weekend of relaxation and fun?
Easter celebrations take different forms around the world.
Growing up in a vicarage in England, I hated Good Friday, a day when I was supposed to be solemn and quiet: no games and no music allowed. However, I did look forward to hot cross buns, and this was the only day in the year that I was allowed to eat them. The cross, made atop a bun filled with delicious currants or raisins and spices, symbolizes the crucifixion of Christ. In contrast to Good Friday, Easter Sunday was a joyful day that always involved wearing a brand-new Easter bonnet and eating hollow chocolate eggs filled with goodies.
Instead of Easter bunnies made of chocolate, children in Australia enjoy chocolate bilbies, one of the major symbols associated with the Easter festivities. Bilbies are endangered desert-dwelling marsupials with long ears. Why no rabbits? That’s because rabbits are not looked upon favorably in Australia, but are considered pests and major crop destroyers.
Painting Easter eggs and then conducting Easter egg hunt games for the kids is what most American parents do at Easter. But did you know that it was in the early 1700′s that eggs were first dyed or painted, and that the credit for starting this practice in America can be attributed to Pennsylvania Dutch (German) settlers. These same settlers also introduced that idea of children getting sweet treats from the Easter bunny.
In Poland on Easter Monday, boys roam around the neighborhood to sprinkle girls with water or perfume. This is another custom that has its roots in pagan traditions: the pouring of water is an ancient spring symbol of cleansing and purification. On the same day, boys can sometimes be seen switching girls with a small willow branch. This all seems a little one-sided to me…
If you happen to be in Guyana for Easter, you’ll be amazed by the number of kites, an essential part of the celebrations. And it’s not just children that make and fly kites: on this day adults make kites of all sizes, colors and shapes for the numerous kite flying competitions. On Easter Monday, if you look up, you can see the glorious sight of thousands of kites of every description moving together.
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