Traditions, Values and Young People
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This page was written by students
from Darlington in the UK. You will find more information about
Easter traditions on our Easter page and on other pages on this website, where you can read
about Easter traditions in Germany
and in Spain.
This page will tell you about different Easter traditions in different parts of the world. You will also read about the meaning of Easter.
Easter: the religious meaning of the festival
Easter is the most important festival in the Christian calendar. It is the commemoration of Jesus' death and his rising from the dead, also known as the resurrection. It comes at the end of Lent. The week leading up to it is called Holy Week.
Palm Sunday is the first day of Holy Week and celebrates Jesus' arrival in Jerusalem, riding on a don-key. Crowds of people came out of the city to greet him, throwing down palm branches on the road. Many churches give out small crosses made from palm leaves, as a reminder of Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem and his death on the cross.
On Maundy Thursday Christians remember when Jesus ate the Passover meal with his disciples, breaking bread and drinking wine, which is now known as the Last Supper. Since then this meal has been symbolically re-enacted by Christians as a way of drawing closer to God. This is called the Eucharist, which means 'thanksgiving'. It is a reminder that Jesus sacrificed his life for mankind.
The Bible tells us that, later that night, Jesus was betrayed by Judas Ischariot. After his arrest, Jesus was brought before the Jewish high priests, who found him guilty of blasphemy because he called himself the Son of God. They handed him over to the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate.As was the custom at the time of the Feast of Passover, Pilate gave the crowds the choice as to which of the two prisoners should be freed: Jesus, or Barrabas, a notorious criminal. Ironically, the same crowd who had welcomed Jesus with palm branches a few days earlier now chose Barrabas to be released, and Pilate condemned Jesus to death by crucifixion.
On Good Friday, many churches hold services meditating on the events leading up to Christ's death: his interrogation, flogging, the mocking by the Roman soldiers, and his journey with the cross to Gol-gotha, the place of his death. Finally he was stripped naked and nailed to the cross, where he hung in agony for three hours, jeered at by the crowds, before he died. This is the day when people traditionally eat hot cross buns, because the cross on the bun is a reminder of the cross Jesus died on, and a reminder of the Christian belief that Jesus died to save us all.
Easter Sunday marks Jesus' resurrection. The Bible tells us that some women went to the tomb, fol-lowed later by some of Jesus' disciples. They discovered that Jesus' body had gone and that the tomb was empty. Jesus then appeared to Mary and many of his disciples, speaking with them on separate occasions during the following forty days. As he left them for the last time, Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit so the disciples would know God would never leave them. He then ascended into heaven. The Church celebrates this on Ascension Day.
Easter Sunday is not just a holiday but also a special day to celebrate the Jesus' return to life and the victory of life over death and light over darkness. People usually celebrate the resurrection of Christ by going to church, then having a nice meal with family.
In Medieval Europe, churchgoers would take a walk after Easter mass, led by a crucifix or the Easter candle. Today these walks endure as Easter parades. People show off their spring finery, including lovely bonnets decorated for spring.
Ever wondered why we have the Easter bunny? Hares and rabbits have long been symbols of fertility. The inclusion of the rabbit into Easter customs appears to have originated in Germany, where tales were told of an "Easter Bunny" who laid eggs for children to find. German immigrants to America - particularly Pennsylvania - brought the tradition with them and spread it to a wider public. They also baked cakes for Easter in the shape of rabbits, and pioneered the practice of making chocolate bunnies and eggs.
In Germany, Easter commences on the Good Friday with the draping of cross. On this day, people eat fish as a part of Easter feast. The egg hunt game is very popular among the Germans. Another game that is enjoyed by kids is Chocolate kiss. To give a warm welcome to the spring season, there is a tradition of burning the old Christmas trees in a specially chosen venue. Green coloured Easter eggs are used on Holy Thursday. In the town of Oberammergau, a play is held this is based on the life of Jesus Christ. It's a play in which about 1200 villagers join in and the play extends up to six hours.
In Italy, members of the family exchange Easter eggs, which can also be made especially for the occa-sion containing special gifts that are placed inside the egg. On Easter Sunday morning, each family usually eats a breakfast of salami, eggs, a special cheese cake and the traditional ''colomba'' - a sweet cake which contains almonds and candied fruits. On Easter Monday, everybody goes out for a picnic or by the sea and many families eat lamb, beans and a strong sheep's milk cheese.
On Easter Sunday morning in Poland, beautifully laid tables are covered with coloured eggs, cold meats, coils of sausages, ham, yeast cakes, pound cakes, poppy-seed cakes, and in the middle of it all, a lamb made of sugar, commemorating the resurrected Christ. No smoke is permitted; therefore no warm meals are served. Sharing a boiled egg with one's relatives is a national tradition. A piece of egg with salt and pepper, consecrated by priest, is an inseparable accessory in the good wishes people extend to each other at Easter.
In France they give Easter eggs to each other, which is related to new life in spring time. King Louis XIV Easter eggs made with gold filled with 'surprises'.
Australia has a different style of celebrating Easter. There, the Easter bunny is said to have a bad his-tory of destroying the vegetable crops. Owing to this, the Aussie people have found another alternative Easter symbol, namely Bilby. Easter is celebrated in the autumn season unlike in other countries where Easter falls in the springtime.
We hope you have realized that Easter is a great part of the year to lots of people around the world and that different countries celebrate Easter in different ways.