POINTS TO PONDER

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The following novel facts about Easter, you may not know. If you don’t, they should interest you.

There is no record in the NT that Resurrection Sunday was celebrated by the Apostles or the churches. Jesus did not tell them to make the day He rose into a Holy Day. It wasn’t until 325 AD, some 300 years after our Lord’s rising from the dead that the Council of Nicaea decreed that the first Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox (March 21st) was Resurrection Sunday.

The English word “Easter,” which parallels the German word Ostern, is of uncertain origin. One view, expounded by early Church scholar Venerable Bede in the 8th century, is that Easter is derived from Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring and fertility. At the ancient Celtic feast of Eostre, an ox was sacrificed with its horns becoming a symbol for the feast. This view presumes—as does the view associating the origin of Christmas on December 25 with pagan celebrations of the winter solstice—that Christians appropriated pagan names and holidays for their highest festivals.

Given the determination with which Christians combated all forms of paganism (the belief in multiple deities), this appears a rather dubious presumption. There is now widespread consensus that the word derives from the Christian designation of Easter week as albis. This Latin phrase was understood as the plural of alba (“dawn”) and became eostarum in Old High German, the precursor of the modern German and English terms.

Fixing the date on which the Resurrection of Jesus was to be observed and celebrated triggered a major controversy in early Christianity in which an Eastern and a Western position differed. The dispute, known as the “Paschal controversies,” was not definitively resolved until the 8th century. In Asia Minor, Christians observed the day of the Crucifixion on the same day that Jews celebrated the  Passover offering—that is, on the 14th day of the first full moon of spring, 14 Nisan (see Jewish Calendar). The Resurrection, then, was observed two days later, on 16 Nisan, regardless of the day of the week. In the Western world, the Resurrection of Jesus was celebrated on the first day of the week.

Eastern Orthodox churches used a slightly different calculation based on the Julian rather than the Gregorian calendar (which is 13 days ahead of the former), with the result that the Orthodox Easter celebration usually occurs later than that celebrated by Protestants and Roman Catholics. Moreover, the Orthodox tradition prohibits Easter from being celebrated before or at the same time as Passover.

In Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches, eggs, which are a symbol of fertility and spring, are dyed red to represent the blood of Jesus, before being blessed and distributed to congregants. Now they’re mostly just a fun way to celebrate the springtime season, especially with creative decorating ideas and Easter egg hunts.

While Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday are major holidays for all Catholics, only 12 out of the 50 United States consider Good Friday before Easter an actual federal holiday. Most of the country will go to work on Good Friday. In Europe, Easter Monday is a national holiday, giving the citizens a four-day weekend.

The fluffy Easter bunny stems from the Anglo-Saxon festival of Eastre, which featured a spring goddess who used the rabbit to represent fertility. It wasn’t until Germans settled in Pennsylvania in the 1700s that the tradition of the bunny that brings eggs came to the USA.

Back in the mid-1800s in New York, people believed that buying new clothes to wear on Easter would bring them good luck for the rest of the year. And, lucky for us, the custom continues today. Then in 1933, composer Irving Berlin introduced the Easter Bonnet into American pop culture with his ballad “Easter Parade.” Today, it’s still one of the most popular songs for the holiday. However, both the new Easter outfit, bonnets, and parade are rarely seen anymore. The ornate eggs were called pysanka, which was made by using wax and dyes. It wasn’t until Ukrainian immigrants came to the U.S. that the colorful custom caught on.

So, we ask, is any of this celebration biblical? No! Is any of this spiritual? Yes! Unfortunately, for the most part, the Easter celebration has become commercial and materialistic. Does that mean we should stop celebrating our Lord’s resurrection at the time of the year when it occurred? Absolutely not! Jesus told us to remember His sacrifice and death, as well as His return to resurrect the believers who died and transform those who are alive.[1] But greater still, there is a Resurrection Day Celebration scheduled according to the Bible.

The Apostle Paul was the one who made it famous when he said: For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. So, let these words be an encouragement to you to each other.[2] – Dr. Robert R Seyda

[1] John 14:1-3

[2] 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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