by Dr. Patrick H. Lau
“The great gift of Easter is hope – Christian hope which makes us have that confidence in God, in his ultimate triumph, and in his goodness and love, which nothing can shake.” ~Basil Hume
Easter is a feast to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The bible related that Jesus traveled to Jerusalem with his disciples to celebrate Passover. Most people in the city gleefully greeted him, calling Him “Jesus is King”. Some individuals were affronted that an ordinary person was praised as the king; they conspired to kill Him. The guards who arrested Jesus asked if He was the Son of God. Jesus informed them that He was. Condemning Jesus of blasphemy, guilty of offending God, the high priests and elders of the Sanhedrin handed down a death sentence.
Jesus was then taken to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor in Judea, who did not find Jesus guilty. However, fearing the crowds, Pontius let them decide the verdict. Emotionally provoked by the chief priests, the crowds shouted “Crucify him”. Jesus was crucified and died on the cross on Friday. (Good Friday is observed in remembrance of Jesus’ execution). His disciples placed His body in a cave tomb; they also placed a large boulder to block the entrance. When Mary Magdalene, one of Jesus’ most celebrated disciples, returned on Sunday, the boulder had been moved, and Jesus’s body disappeared. He had resurrected. Later, Jesus revealed Himself to His disciples and friends that He had been with His Father in Heaven, and He would return to earth.
According to many cultural historians, the origin of Easter could be traced to the ancient Teutonic mythology pertaining to the Teutonic tribes of central Europe. Easter was derived from the word Eostre, who was the goddess of spring and fertility. It was believed that after a lengthy, freezing winter, Eostre returned to Earth in spring bringing along sunshine and warm weather. Spring is indeed the annual time of renewal, when the earth blissfully rejuvenates itself after a gloomy, somewhat lifeless winter. Spring also signifies new life and rebirth. This Pagan festival of Eostre had been celebrated as a spring festival with bountiful feast and other rituals on the day of the vernal equinox.
Later, the Christian church transformed the Pagan festival to a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And in A.D. 325, the Roman Emperor Constantine proclaimed that Easter be observed on the first Sunday after the full moon following the vernal equinox. Thus, Easter has become a movable feast between March 22 and April 25. Charles M. Crowe once said, “Easter is the demonstration of God that life is essentially spiritual and timeless.”
Easter egg is the notable symbol of Easter. Egg was, in fact, regarded sacred during the celebration of Eostre, because life was sustained within the egg, which was considered as a symbol of new life and fertility. In various cultures, egg signifies rebirth and new life. It has been religiously construed that egg, the seed of life, is a symbol of the tomb from where Jesus came out after resurrection. Coloring eggs with bright colors signifying sunlight of spring during spring festival can be traced to the ancient Egyptians and Persians. Early Christians colored eggs red to symbolize the resurrection of Jesus Christ. One of the most popular Easter customs is the egg hunt; and nowadays, colorful eggs are made of plastic with chocolate candies inside.
The legend of the Easter Bunny originated in pre-Christian Germany around the 13th century. The rabbit was the earthly symbol of Eostre. By 1680, the first tale regarding a rabbit laying eggs and hiding them in a garden was revealed. In 1700s, German immigrants brought this legend to the United States. They started making nests and placed dyed eggs in them; this had evolved into the tradition of Easter baskets with colorful eggs, which have eventually been replaced by candy eggs. They also baked rabbit-shaped cakes; this may have initiated the act of making chocolate Easter bunnies. The traditional Easter food is ham.
During Easter time, churches adorn the altars with Easter lilies to venerate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Easter lily symbolizes purity, joy, hope and life. Easter evokes a great deal of good memories of the time when we were raising our children, such as egg painting, egg hunts, Easter baskets, chocolate eggs and bunnies, family gatherings, succulent baked ham dinner, watching parades and so forth. Sharing cultural activities with our children is a significant way of passing along traditions, customs and heritage, irrespective of our religion, belief or idealology.