Monday, 6 April 2015

Easter Traditions

By: Izabela Pitula

Many people think that Easter is all about the Easter egg hunts, the Easter bunny, chocolate candy and toys, but for Christians, Easter is also about how Jesus died for our sins on the cross and then came back to life on the third day. He sacrificed his own life for the sake of ours.

"God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son. Anyone who believes in him will not die but will have eternal life" (John 3:16).

Every country around the world has different traditions when it comes to Easter. Right from north to south and east to west, we can find a tinge of local flavor in Easter celebrations in various countries across the world.

Many countries of Europe such as France, Italy and Sweden, celebrate Easter by lighting giant bonfires on top of the buildings or hills on Easter Eve. Originally, these bonfires intended to celebrate the arrival of spring.

In the United States, special services are held in churches on Easter Sunday to celebrate Jesus Christ’s resurrection. Eggs, rabbits and young animals are the major symbols of Easter as they represent rebirth and return of spring. Eggs are decorated and put on display. Going back to history, Easter wasn’t welcomed in US, because most of the settlers were Puritans, who did not believe in ceremonies that were related to religious festivals. The most common activity is the Easter egg hunt where eggs are hidden all around the house which kids hunt for enthusiastically.

In Brazil, Easter is celebrated in the autumn season due to its geographical location. The celebrations begin with the Holy Week rituals which involve palm branches that form crosses, banners and letters. Brazil is very common for carnivals, therefore for this time of year, they are held everywhere to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus. Worshiping nature is one of the major aspects of Easter in Brazil. Macela flowers bloom during the Lenten season and are brought to church for a blessing to be late used as a medicine.

Greece observes Easter as its main religious festival through Orthodox Christianity. Easter Sunday is called “Megali Evdomada” which means the Big Week. This festivity is centered on the Church and its rituals. There many carnivals happening during this time. Some of the Greek practices during this holiday include cleaning the outside of the house, colouring eggs in red and buying new clothes and shoes.

During Easter in Israel, people gather and travel to Golgotha to mark the route of Jesus Christ’s journey. The procession ends at the tomb of Jesus. On Easter Sunday, at 1 o’clock, one priest enters the tomb and the doors are shut after him. The entire town's lights are off and when the church bells ring, the priest comes out with a torch. Shops and homes are brightly lit and displayed with Easter eggs, bunnies and food, but in Israel, Easter has more of a religious significance rather than celebrations and materialism.

Poland is known for some unique Easter traditions. The celebrations start on Thursday, 3 days before Easter. People attend evening Mass beginning the Paschal Triduum and bring different creams and oils for blessings. On Good Friday, Polish people fast all day, drinking only water. On Holy Saturday, the families prepare the “Easter Basket”. Colorful eggs, bread, cake, salt, pepper and white sausages are laid nicely in the basket. Then, it is take to the church to receive the blessings from the priest. Polish people believe that the forty days of fast are not over until the basket is blessed. On Palm Sunday, people take palm branches to the church, which symbolize Christ’s entry into Jerusalem. These twigs are then blessed and used to cure sick people, animals and bless the pregnant women. On Easter Monday in Poland is called “Lany Poniedziałek (Śmigus-Dyngus) meaning “Wet Monday”. On this day, people splash each other with cold water and it is believed to bring good health and luck.

In Romania, Easter is celebrated with rituals followed by the Orthodox Church. For most, Easter is a time to remember the death of their loved ones. Cemeteries are cleaned and flowers are put over their tombs. On Holy Thursday, the arts and crafts begin, where people start painting eggs in various colors. A popular tradition in a Romanian household is that on Great Thursday, they place a chair near the fire with blankets over it. It is believed that the dead souls would sit there. On Holy Saturday at midnight, the family attends Mass, carrying a bowl of Pasca, eggs and other foods to be blessed by the priest.

With the coming of the festival, the Canadian streets and shops can be seen flooded with a variety of Easter goodies and other seasonal elements. The state landmarks are illuminated with bright and colorful lights days before Easter Sunday. Most of the businesses, government offices, banks and liquor stores are shut down on Easter. The holy occasion is a day for attending religious services in churches, meeting together for family gatherings, decorating Easter eggs and organizing Easter egg hunts. They get busy in decorating Easter eggs and organizing various Easter craft contests. The main event of Easter Sunday in Canada is the Bal en Blanc, a huge rave party, that is hosted every year in Montreal, thereby attracting thousands of partygoers. Another major Easter festivity in Canada is the Winter Carnival that is held in the Quebec City. The carnival consists of umpteen sporting events, such as skating, skiing and tobogganing. Also, numerous special Easter plays and songs are organized in theatres and community halls across major Canadian cities.

As you can see in various countries around the world, it’s not just about the Easter eggs or bunnies. It’s about the hope and love that this season enfolds in everyone’s homes and lives. Happy Easter, HT!

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