Thursday, March 24, 2005

The Resurrection and the Easter Bunny

In the midst of the Christian Holy Week, we tend to caught up in the Easter Bunny, and Easter Egg Hunts, and we forget what the week is really all about: the Passion. Just what is the Christian Holy Week about, anyway? And how did it come to be dominated by a Bunny delivering brightly colored eggs?

Maundy Thursday

The night of Maundy Thursday is the night on which Jesus was betrayed by Judas in the Garden of Gethsemane and arrested by Roman soldiers. It commemorates Jesus' Last Supper with his disciples and the institution of the Lord's Supper (Eucharist, Communion). It is called Maundy Thursday from the old Latin name for the day, Dies Mandatum, "the day of the new commandment." The new commandment being Christ's commandment that we should love one another. In many other countries, this day is known as Holy Thursday.

Good Friday

There is great debate as to how Good Friday came to be known as "Good," as it is the observance of the day upon which Christ was crucified. Some believe the term "Good" evolved from "God" or God's Friday. Others believe "good" represents the fact that the greatest tragedy in history brought about the greatest good of all time: the gift of salvation.

Easter Sunday

Easter is generally considered one of the most important holidays of the year, as a time to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus after his death by crucifixion. In the second century A.D., Christian missionaries tried to convert northern European tribes to Christianity. It is believed by some that the missionaries incorporated some pagan festivals of new life into the Easter holiday in order to make Christianity more attractive to the tribes.

In pagan times, the "Easter hare" was no ordinary animal, but a sacred companion of the old goddess of spring, Eostre. 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. Since long before Jesus Christ was born, parents told their children that the magic hare would bring them presents at the spring festival. The presents were often painted eggs, as these represented the new life starting at this time of year.

The bunny was first used as a symbol of Easter in 16th century Germany. Also in Germany, children made nests of grass and placed them in their yards. They believed the Easter Bunny would fill these baskets with brightly decorated eggs during the night.

The Easter Bunny was introduced to American folklore by the German settlers who arrived in the Pennsylvania Dutch country during the 1700s.

In whatever way you recognize Easter, it is a time to remember the sacrifice made for all of us. There's no harm in participating in Easter Egg Hunts and telling children about the Easter Bunny, as long as we remember to share with them the Passion of a Man who died so that we might receive the gift of eternal life.

How do you celebrate Easter?

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