In Sri Lanka and the rest of the world, Easter Sunday will be celebrated in earnest today. Easter is the celebration of Christ’s resurrection from the dead and marks the end of Holy Week, the end of Lent and is the last day of the Easter Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday). Following Easter Sunday, the season of Easter begins and lasts for seven weeks, ending with Pentecost.
According to the Gospels, Jesus Christ rose from the dead on the third day following his crucifixion, which would be Sunday. His resurrection marks the triumph of good over evil, sin and death. It is the singular event which proves that those who trust in God and accept Christ will be raised from the dead. Since Easter represents the fulfillment of God’s promises to mankind, it is the most important holiday on the Christian calendar.
The Easter date is movable and always falls on a Sunday between March 22 and April 25. Easter in the Roman Catholic Church is always on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox.
Many Catholics in Sri Lanka and around the world attend Easter Vigil at midnight. Traditional family activities vary by region. In Sri Lanka, families gather for lunch or dinner and chocolate Easter eggs are presented to the children. In the United States, Europe and Australasia, children often hunt for Easter eggs, which are often brightly-dyed hardboiled eggs, though they can be plastic eggs filled with candy or small denominations of money. Adults tend to share bouquets of flowers, greeting cards and may gather for a family meal. Such celebrations are often secularised and focused on children and family rather than the religious aspect of the holy day.
Although Easter is a deeply religious holiday, it has also become a highly commercial event, full of chocolate rabbits, decorated Easter baskets, and colourful eggs. And, of course, there’s the Easter Bunny, dropping off baskets of treats in the middle of the night to delight children everywhere on Easter morning. But how did all the candy chicks, chocolate bunnies, and dyed eggs become such a large part of the celebration?
Some claim that the word Easter derives from Eostre, a pagan goddess of spring and fertility. According to folklore, Eostre found a bird dying from the cold and turned it into a rabbit so its fur would keep it warm—but that rabbit still laid eggs like a bird. In one version of the story, the bunny paints and decorates the eggs as a gift to Eostre to show his loyalty and love. It’s possible this story is the reason that bunnies, birds and chicks are connected with the holiday.
Dyeing Easter eggs may have a deeper religious connection as well. One tradition regarding Easter eggs is related to Mary Magdalene, the first person to see Jesus after the Resurrection. She was holding a plain egg in the presence of an emperor and proclaiming the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The emperor said that Jesus’ rising from the dead was as likely as that egg turning red and the egg turned bright red while he was still speaking.
Where does all the chocolate come from? The tradition of chocolate eggs began in 19th Century France and Germany and soon spread to the rest of Europe and eventually the United States. To receive the special Easter eggs, children were told to make nests from hats or baskets so the Easter Bunny could leave them there. Many Christians are also eager to eat chocolate on Easter because it’s a common modern-day sacrifice during Lent.
It’s very likely that children play an important role in the origin of the fun side of Easter even while for Christians, this is a serious holy day, dealing with issues of life and death. It is an event that makes us believe that miracles happen every day.
The Easter miracle transformed women and men from doubters to believers 2,000 years ago, and has continued to do so ever since. In great and little ways, Easter miracles have touched people.
Jesus’ resurrection continues to transform millions of Christians around the world. Easter is all about the fact that God’s ‘yes’ to life is louder than death’s ‘no’, and the ultimate proof of this is that God raised His Son from the dead. Easter is not just about an isolated miracle 2,000 years ago that chiefly affected one person. Easter is all about the fact that miracles do still happen and this should be the Easter message we retain with us throughout the year.