This weekend Easter will be observed around the world by many faiths. When I began my research on the day I quickly realized its many complexities in how we adhere to its observance and even how the day is determined each year.
Emperor Constantine in the year A.D. 325 asked the Council of Nicaea to establish a date on which Easter would be observed. Before that time, it had been celebrated on several different days of the week. After studying many things, the council decided the observance shall be on the Sunday following the full moon or after the vernal equinox. That is the arrival of the season we also know as spring.
Now, that seems simple enough doesn't it? Well, when they spoke of the full moon, they spoke of the ecclesiastical full moon. Of course we all know what that is. In the event a couple of you may not know what an ecclesiastical full moon is, it is defined as the 14th day of a tabular lunation. In other words, where one day is equal to the ecclesiastical New Moon. Is it becoming clear to you now? If it is, here is one more bit of information you need to know in order to calculate the correct date. The ecclesiastical full moon doesn't always happen when you look into the night sky and see a full moon overhead. Given the fact the vernal equinox is always on the 21st of March, I will have to admit it is not easy to know the accurate date. I am glad people with wisdom can make sure it appears on the calendar each year on the correct day.
What does all that mean? Well, the best I can tell is that somewhere between March 22 and April 25 we will observer Easter each year. However that date is figured, it is the time each year that Christians embrace the observance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In addition to Easter, there are other days associated with the observance of Easter. Lent is the period of time before Easter each year that begins on Ash Wednesday. Palm Sunday is the Sunday before Easter. Holy, or Maundy, Thursday is observed by many on the Thursday before Easter.
There is also Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Ascension, and Eastertide or Pentecost. This most special time of year is celebrated in many ways by many faiths and it centers on those events we remember long ago. I hope you can begin to understand this time of year as more than Easter. It is a period of time when those long ago events are celebrated in more than one day. You can see there is no way to define one day as a way of remembrance for all those events.
Now that we have established the importance of Easter in regard to religion, what about the Easter Bunny? Or colored eggs? What about a new Easter Bonnet you bought to wear to church Sunday morning? How did we go from the Resurrection to a Chocolate Easter Bunny?
You remember I said Easter is complicated? Not only is it complicated in date, it is also complicated by how we remember the day. The bunny side of the day comes to us from the Europeans and the ancient Angelo-Saxons. Eastre was thought to be the goddess of springtime in the pagan beliefs of the times.
When the sun returned and the world around them began to turn green, those in the old world believed it was a time of renewal and prosperity. The goddess, Eastre, would move her hand across the land and bring forth the promise of spring. Rabbits were seen as a sign of fertility. Eggs were seen as a sign of renewal. To hold a seemingly inanimate object in their hand that new life would soon rise from had great meaning in their lives. They knew their beliefs in Eastre were the reason for life anew each spring.
When the early Christian Missionaries went to Europe to bring faith to pagans, they realized that to challenge their beliefs could be dangerous. With the passing of time they began a slow conversion of the people to the Christian faith. The time of Eastre in spring coincided with the time of the resurrection. Over time the traditions of spring moved towards the strongly held Christian beliefs.
When the early German immigrants came to this country, not only did they bring their faith but long-held traditions of spring. There are a few other traditions associated with this time of year. It is said Good Friday is a time to plant potatoes. On the other hand, it is said to be bad luck if you break the ground with iron tools. I guess plow the day before you plant.
Good luck will come if you buy new clothes for Easter. But I know bad luck will come if you play outside in them after church and get them dirty. This comes from personal experience.
Rains that fall on Easter Sunday will return the next seven Sundays. And one of my favorites is that you don't cut your grass before Easter or you will have bad luck. That one gets me out of cutting grass around the house.
One last belief you should remember is to prevent a night time accident. If you smell a dandelion you will wet the bed. Now we know why you spray your yard to kill them.
Easter is a time of rejoicing in the belief of renewal for us all. The pagans believed spring was a time of renewal and regrowth, perhaps not so far from what the missionaries brought into their lives. It is a time after long winters to see the world anew and to believe it is His hand that swept across the land to bring back life. All of this is more than chocolate bunnies and colored eggs. This Sunday is a time to believe in something more than we can see and touch. It is to believe there is a time for each of us and we should make it the best we can. May we each remember that precious gift of life and remember those who may not be as fortunate as each of us. On this Easter, remember your gift as we each look Thru the Lens.