From the outside looking in, Easter seems to be about the worship of a genetically mutated rabbit, who poops chocolate eggs and distributes them to the kiddies.
In actual fact, Easter is about the brutal crucifixion of Jesus Christ by the Romans, his subsequent resurrection from the grave and ascension to Heaven. No resurrection, no Christianity. In essence it’s what made Jesus ‘the bomb.’ (ie Corinthian 15:12 The resurrection established Jesus as the powerful Son of God)
So why don’t we celebrate Easter by nailing our hands and feet to pieces of wood and jumping out of caves, instead of eating sugary treats?
Actually, there are many varied ways to mark this auspicious occasion. The Catholics begin on the night of Holy Saturday with the Easter Vigil. This begins in darkness with the blessing of the Easter fire, the lighting of a big candle (symbolic of the Risen Christ) and the chanting of the Easter Proclamation. After this service of light, a number of passages from the Bible are read, with a final climax of singing the Gloria and the Alleluia and the proclamation of the Gospel of the Resurrection. At this point, the lights are brought up and the church bells are rung. Yay!
In Eastern versions of Christianity such as in Russia, there is a procession, which reenacts the journey of the Myrrh bearers to the Tomb of Jesus “very early in the morning” (Luke 24:1). After circling around the temple three times, the procession halts in front of the closed doors. Yay!
In Greece the traditional meal is a hearty stew of chopped lamb liver and wild greens seasoned with egg-and-lemon sauce. They also have hard-boiled eggs dyed bright red to symbolize the spilt Blood of Christ and the promise of eternal life. These eggs are cracked together to celebrate the opening of the Tomb of Christ. So that’s where that bunny got the idea from!
So, why a rabbit you ask? Well, the Easter Bunny was introduced to the USA by German settlers, during the 18th century. The arrival of the ‘Osterhase’ (the Easter Hare’) was considered one of childhood’s greatest pleasures, similar to the arrival of Santa on Christmas Eve. Children would build brightly colored nests, in secluded areas of their homes. The “Osterhase ” would, if the children had been good, lay brightly colored eggs in the nest. God only knows how a Hare could lay eggs, but it should be noted that rabbits (with their tendency to like sexy times and giving birth to lots of little bunnies) and eggs, are both rich symbols of ‘new life’ or resurrection. Hence the sneaky tie back to Jesus.
The confusion about this holiest of long weekends doesn’t seem to stop there. Can anyone tell me what date Easter will fall on in three years time, without consulting the mighty oracle Google? Neither can I.
Essentially, in the beginning the Easter tradition was closely linked to the Jewish celebration of Passover.
According to the New Testament, Jesus gave the Passover meal new meaning, as he prepared for his death during the Last Supper. He claimed that a loaf of bread and cup of wine symbolized his body soon to be sacrificed and his blood soon to be shed. So originally the dates pretty much followed Jewish protocol for Passover.
However, in 325AD at the Council of Nicaea, some old guys decided that they didn’t want to associate this day with the Jews, because they didn’t have foreskins. Instead they changed Easter to a moveable feast, which would fall on the first Paschal Moon following the northern hemisphere’s vernal equinox. This apparently made it way clearer for everyone involved. Basically they didn’t know the real dates of when Jesus sprang back to life, so they figured the best guess was somewhere between March 20 and May 8th. Surely one year in every few decades or so might hit the target.
Despite their best efforts there’s still a bit of a split. With Eastern Christianity, the spiritual preparation for Easter, begins with Lent. In Western Christianity it marks the end of Lent. But then, those dates are also muddled around between denominations anyway. In 2001, the World Council of Churches tried to institute a change that would have seen calendar issues eliminated between the Eastern and Western churches. Unfortunately, it was not ultimately adopted by any member body. Boo.
Despite all of these inconsistencies and oddities, Easter remains one of the most widely celebrated weekends in the world.
So this year while you gorge yourself on chocolate, you can regale the kiddies with the ‘real meaning of Easter’, instead of just contemplating how a giant rabbit can fly around the world in one night and shit eggs onto everyone’s front lawns. Enjoy.