Annie's "Easter History" Page

~The information below is taken from Encyclopedias~

When you read the History of the Holidays remember that just because it says it is "Christian" that doesn't necessarily mean it is. Also some of the information is about different denominations. I do not agree with all of the information below. I do feel that it is important for people to know where some of the "special days" around the Easter holiday came from.

On my main Annie's Easter Page, I have mentioned what "rites" , "ceremony" and "rituals" are. Please keep this in mind when you read this Easter History Page. Also remember that these are not "Christian" friendly encyclopedias.

We are to: "Prove all things and hold fast that which is good."
1 Thessalonians 5:21

The information in and of itself is not bad it is what we do or don't do with it that is the problem.

Please remember:
"For unto whomsoever much is given, of him much is required."
~Luke 12:48~

From Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia:
The greatest festival of the Christian church commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is a movable feast; that is, it is not always held on the same date. In AD 325 the church council of Nicaea decided that it should be celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the vernal equinox of March 21. Easter can come as early as March 22 or as late as April 25.

Many Easter customs come from the Old World. The white lily, the symbol of the resurrection, is the special Easter flower. Rabbits and colored eggs have come from pagan antiquity as symbols of new life. Easter Monday egg rolling, a custom of European origin, has become a tradition on the lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C.

The name Easter comes from Eostre, an ancient Anglo-Saxon goddess, originally of the dawn. In pagan times an annual spring festival was held in her honor. Some Easter customs have come from this and other pre-Christian spring festivals. Others come from the Passover feast of the Jews, observed in memory of their deliverance from Egypt

The word paschal comes from a Latin word that means "belonging to Passover or to Easter." Formerly, Easter and the Passover were closely associated. The resurrection of Jesus took place during the Passover. Christians of the Eastern church initially celebrated both holidays together. But the Passover can fall on any day of the week, and Christians of the Western church preferred to celebrate Easter on Sunday--the day of the resurrection. ~Above Excerpted from Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia~

From Encarta:
, annual festival commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the principal feast of the Christian year. It is celebrated on a Sunday on varying dates between March 22 and April 25 and is therefore called a movable feast. The dates of several other ecclesiastical festivals, extending over a period between Septuagesima Sunday (the ninth Sunday before Easter) and the first Sunday of Advent, are fixed in relation to the date of Easter.

Connected with the observance of Easter are the 40-day penitential season of Lent, beginning on Ash Wednesday and concluding at midnight on Holy Saturday, the day before Easter Sunday; Holy Week, commencing on Palm Sunday, including Good Friday, the day of the crucifixion, and terminating with Holy Saturday; and the Octave of Easter, extending from Easter Sunday through the following Sunday. During the Octave of Easter in early Christian times, the newly baptized wore white garments, white being the liturgical color of Easter and signifying light, purity, and joy.

Pre-Christian Tradition
Easter, a Christian festival, embodies many pre-Christian traditions. The origin of its name is unknown. Scholars, however, accepting the derivation proposed by the 8th-century English scholar St. Bede, believe it probably comes from the Anglo-Saxon name of a Teutonic goddess of spring and fertility, to whom was dedicated a month corresponding to April. Her festival was celebrated on the day of the vernal equinox; traditions associated with the festival survive in the Easter rabbit, a symbol of fertility, and in colored easter eggs, originally painted with bright colors to represent the sunlight of spring, and used in Easter-egg rolling contests or given as gifts.

Such festivals, and the stories and legends that explain their origin, were common in ancient religions. A Greek legend tells of the return of Persephone, daughter of Demeter, goddess of the earth, from the underworld to the light of day; her return symbolized to the ancient Greeks the resurrection of life in the spring after the desolation of winter. Many ancient peoples shared similar legends. The Phrygians believed that their omnipotent deity went to sleep at the time of the winter solstice, and they performed ceremonies with music and dancing at the spring equinox to awaken him. The Christian festival of Easter probably embodies a number of converging traditions; most scholars emphasize the original relation of Easter to the Jewish festival of Passover, or Pesach, from which is derived Pasch, another name for Easter. The early Christians, many of whom were of Jewish origin, were brought up in the Hebrew tradition and regarded Easter as a new feature of the Passover festival, a commemoration of the advent of the Messiah as foretold by the prophets.

The Dating of Easter
According to the New Testament, Christ was crucified on the eve of Passover and shortly afterward rose from the dead. In consequence, the Easter festival commemorated Christ's resurrection. In time, a serious difference over the date of the Easter festival arose among Christians. Those of Jewish origin celebrated the resurrection immediately following the Passover festival, which, according to their Babylonian lunar calendar, fell on the evening of the full moon (the 14th day in the month of Nisan, the first month of the year); by their reckoning, Easter, from year to year, fell on different days of the week.

Christians of Gentile origin, however, wished to commemorate the resurrection on the first day of the week, Sunday; by their method, Easter occurred on the same day of the week, but from year to year it fell on different dates.

An important historical result of the difference in reckoning the date of Easter was that the Christian churches in the East, which were closer to the birthplace of the new religion and in which old traditions were strong, observed Easter according to the date of the Passover festival. The churches of the West, descendants of Greco-Roman civilization, celebrated Easter on a Sunday.

Rulings of the Council of Nicaea on the Date of Easter
Constantine the Great, Roman emperor, convoked the Council of Nicaea in that time. The council unanimously ruled that the Easter festival should be celebrated throughout the Christian world on the first Sunday after the full moon following the vernal equinox; and that if the full moon should occur on a Sunday and thereby coincide with the Passover festival, Easter should be commemorated on the Sunday following. Coincidence of the feasts of Easter and Passover was thus avoided.

The Council of Nicaea also decided that the calendar date of Easter was to be calculated at Alexandria , then the principal astronomical center of the world. The accurate determination of the date, however, proved an impossible task in view of the limited knowledge of the 4th-century world. The principal astronomical problem involved was the discrepancy, called the epact, between the solar year and the lunar year. The chief calendric problem was a gradually increasing discrepancy between the true astronomical year and the Julian calendar then in use.

Later Dating Methods
Ways of fixing the date of the feast tried by the church proved unsatisfactory, and Easter was celebrated on different dates in different parts of the world. In 387, for example, the dates of Easter in France and Egypt were 35 days apart. About 465, the church adopted a system of calculation proposed by the astronomer Victorinus (flourished 5th century), who had been commissioned by Pope Hilarius to reform the calendar and fix the date of Easter. Elements of his method are still in use, although the Scythian monk Dionysius Exiguus made significant adjustments to the Easter cycle in the 6th century. Refusal of the British and Celtic Christian churches to adopt the proposed changes led to a bitter dispute between them and Rome in the 7th century. Reform of the Julian calendar in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII, through adoption of the Gregorian calendar, eliminated much of the difficulty in fixing the date of Easter and in arranging the ecclesiastical year; since 1752, when the Gregorian calendar was also adopted in Great Britain and Ireland, Easter has been celebrated on the same day in the Western part of the Christian world. The Eastern churches, however, which did not adopt the Gregorian calendar, commemorate Easter on a Sunday either preceding or following the date observed in the West. Occasionally the dates coincide; the most recent times were in 1865, 1963.

Because the Easter holiday affects a varied number of secular affairs in many countries, it has long been urged as a matter of convenience that the movable dates of the festival be either narrowed in range or replaced by a fixed date in the manner of Christmas. In 1923 the problem was referred to the Holy See, which has found no canonical objection to the proposed reform. In 1928 the British Parliament enacted a measure allowing the Church of England to commemorate Easter on the first Sunday after the second Saturday in April. Despite these steps toward reform, Easter continues to be a movable feast.

Good Friday:
Good Friday , Friday immediately preceding Easter, celebrated by Christians as the anniversary of Christ's crucifixion. The name Good Friday is generally believed to be a corruption of God's Friday. Since the time of the early church, the day has been dedicated to penance, fasting, and prayer.In the Roman Catholic church, the Good Friday liturgy is composed of three distinct parts: readings and prayers, including the reading of the Passion according to St. John; the veneration of the cross; and a general communion service (formerly called the Mass of the Presanctified), involving the reception of preconsecrated hosts by the priest and faithful. From the 16th century on, the Good Friday service took place in the morning; in 1955 Pope Pius XII decreed that it be held in the afternoon or evening. As a result, such traditional afternoon devotions as the Tre Ore (Italian, three hours), consisting of sermons, meditations, and prayers centering on the three-hour agony of Christ on the cross, were almost entirely discontinued in the Roman Catholic church. In most of Europe, in South America, in Great Britain and many parts of the Commonwealth, and in several states of the U.S., Good Friday is a legal holiday.

Ascension (religion) , in Christian belief, the departure of Jesus Christ from the earth 40 days after his resurrection from the dead. The event is described as occurring in the presence of the apostles; Christ was lifted up and a cloud took him out of their sight. In some New Testament passages (see Mark 16:19-20; Luke 24:50-51; Acts 1:1-14) the ascension is represented as an observed historical fact. Other passages (see 1 Peter 3:22; 1 Timothy 3:16, Hebrews 4:14) stress its theological dimension. Its significance seems to center on the glorification of Christ and its service as a sign that his earthly mission had been fulfilled. The Feast of the Ascension, one of the great festivals of Christianity, is observed on Thursday, 40 days after Easter. Artists have often depicted the theme in one of three ways: Christ ascending upon clouds toward the outstretched hand of God the Father, Christ being carried by angels, or Christ ascending by his own power.

Ancient symbol found in many cultures, but especially associated with Christianity.

The cross, as a basic design motif, appears in the pottery, weaving, carving, and painting of many cultures. It may be simply decorative, or it may have symbolic meaning. The tau cross, for example, was a symbol of life to the ancient Egyptians; when combined with the circle (as in the crux ansata), it stood for eternity . For most ancient peoples the Greek cross was a metaphor for the four indestructible elements of creation (air, earth, fire, and water), thus symbolizing permanence. The swastika, with the ends of its cross bars bent to the right, was common in both the Old World and the New World. It originally represented the revolving sun, fire, or life and later, by extension, good luck. To Buddhists, a swastika represented resignation; to the Jains, it symbolized their seventh saint. To Hindus, a swastika with arms bent to the left symbolized night, magic, and the destructive goddess Kali . In mid-20th-century Germany, the right-facing swastika was the Nazi party emblem The cross was also used in the ancient world as a symbol of execution by crucifixion. In Roman times only the lowest class of criminals was crucified. In Christianity the cross became not only a symbol of the shameful death of Jesus Christ as a criminal on a tau-shaped Roman cross, but also of his subsequent resurrection to eternal life and of his promise of salvation to Christian believers. The Greek letters C (chi) and R (rho), the first two letters of the Greek word CRISTOS (Christos ), were superimposed to form the chi-rho, which, as the monogram of Christ, became a pervasive decorative element in Early Christian and Byzantine Art The Cross in Christian Usage

The cross became an important part of Christian liturgy and art. Christians make a sign of the cross with the right hand both to profess their faith and to bestow a blessing. Early Christian clergy used small hand-held crosses to bestow blessings. Larger crosses were carried in processions; these took spectacular forms in later centuries. In time, crosses were placed on altars in churches and erected outdoors in markets and along roads. Small crosses were worn by clergy and laity as tokens of piety, marks of ecclesiastical office (pectoral crosses), reliquaries, good-luck charms, or decoration. Most large medieval churches were built on the plan of a Latin or Greek cross, symbolic of Christ's body.

The cross, as first used in Christian art, generally did not show the body of Jesus, not only because the early church still followed the Jewish prohibition of images as idolatrous, but also because the empty cross symbolized Jesus' resurrection rather than his death. As a result, Christ was sometimes symbolized by a lamb or a bust of a youth above the cross. By the 7th century, however, it had become customary to represent the whole figure of Jesus, alive and robed, as the triumphant Christ, in front of the cross but not attached to it. Gradually, as the church put more emphasis on his suffering and death, Christ was portrayed naturalistically in a loincloth and crown of thorns, nailed to the cross. The wound in his side was visible. Thereafter, most three-dimensional crosses in the Roman Catholic church were crucifixes, and scenes of the crucifixion became popular themes of medieval and Renaissance painting and sculpture . Most non-Lutheran Protestant churches, which tend to follow early church traditions, use the cross alone.

in the New Testament, event traditionally understood as the revelation of the glory of Jesus Christ as the son of God. Described in Matthew 17, Mark 9, and Luke 9, it occurs when Jesus takes his disciples Peter, James, and John to a high mountain (traditionally, Mount Tabor): And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light (Matthew 17:2). At the same time, the prophets Moses and Elijah appeared to the disciples and a voice from the cloud said, This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him (Matthew 17:5). The Feast of the Transfiguration originated in the Eastern church before the 7th century and was gradually introduced into the Western church. Its general observance in the Western church was established in 1456 by Pope Callistus III, who fixed its date as August 6 to commemorate a Christian victory over the Ottoman Turks at Belgrade. It is a major feast in the Orthodox and Armenian churches.

From the World Book Encyclopedia:
Religious observances of Easter

Easter is the center of an entire season of the Christian year. The first and best-known part of the season is Lent, a period of about 40 days before Easter Sunday. Some churches exclude Sundays, and others exclude Saturdays and Sundays, from this period. During Lent, Christians prepare for Easter. They consider it a time for penance--that is, a time to show sorrow for sins and to seek forgiveness. One common form of Lenten penance is fasting, which limits the kinds or amounts of food eaten. Christians patterned Lent after the 40 days Jesus prayed and fasted in the wilderness to prepare for teaching and leading His people. Easter Sunday is followed by a 50-day period ending on Pentecost, the seventh Sunday after Easter. Pentecost is a festival in memory of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles.

The beginning of
Lent. In Western churches, Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. Many churches, especially Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran, hold special services on this day. This service often includes the blessing of ashes on the foreheads of worshipers, and words based on Genesis 3: 19, "for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." The ceremony reminds participants that they should begin their Lenten penance in a humble spirit.

In the Eastern Orthodox Churches, members attend an evening service on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday. This Sunday is sometimes called Forgiveness Sunday because at the end of the service worshipers ask the priest and one another for forgiveness for their sins. Lent officially begins in the Eastern Orthodox Churches on the next day, called Pure Monday.
Holy Week is the final week of Lent. Some churches hold special services every day of the week. Holy Week recalls the events leading to Jesus' death and Resurrection. For more information about these events.
Palm Sunday is the first day of Holy Week. It celebrates the story of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, where people spread palm branches and clothing before Him. During Palm Sunday services, many churches distribute cut palm leaves, sometimes woven into the shape of a cross. Greek Orthodox Christians receive branches of fragrant bay leaves. The leaves are then used in cooking during the year.
Maundy Thursday, also called Holy Thursday, recalls Jesus' last meal and His arrest and imprisonment. Many Protestant churches hold Communion services on this day. During Maundy Thursday Mass, Roman Catholic priests often wash the feet of 12 church members or poor people in remembrance of how Jesus washed the feet of His 12 disciples at the time of the final meal. A priest takes the Host (the wafer of bread regarded as Jesus' body) from the main altar to a shrine on the side. The shrine symbolizes the place where Jesus was held prisoner after His arrest. All decorations are removed from the main altar as a symbol of the stripping of Jesus' garments before the Crucifixion.
Good Friday observes the death of Jesus on the cross. Most churches hold mourning services. Some services last from noon until 3 p.m. to symbolize the last three hours of darkness while Jesus suffered on the cross. The Eastern Orthodox Churches follow services with ceremonies recalling how Jesus was taken from the cross and placed inside a tomb. In many Spanish-speaking countries, Christians hold processions in which people carry statues of the dying Jesus and His mother, Mary. Many Christians eat little or no food on Good Friday.
Holy Saturday is chiefly a day of solemn vigil (watch). The major activity of the day comes at nightfall as observance of the Resurrection approaches. Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches hold vigil services that often include the baptism of new members. The vigil service leads up to a dramatic moment. The lights in each church are put out, leaving everyone in darkness. Then, the priest lights one tall candle, representing the risen Jesus. The flame from this candle is used to light other candles held by worshipers, which symbolizes the spreading of Jesus' light throughout the world. In Eastern Orthodox Churches, the ceremony is timed so that the priest lights his candle exactly at midnight. After all the candles have been lit, the service becomes an Easter celebration, with joyous music and the reading of the Easter story from the Bible. Traditionally, newly converted Christians were baptized on this day, after having received religious instruction during Lent.
Easter Sunday celebrates the Resurrection of Jesus. Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches hold Saturday evening services, but most Protestant churches wait until Sunday morning to hold their main Easter services. Many churches and communities, particularly in the United States, have additional outdoor Easter services at sunrise. At that time, the light of the rising sun recalls the light that comes back to the world with the newly risen Jesus. Catholic and Orthodox churches also hold additional services on Easter Sunday, especially for those who missed the long services of the preceding night. For many Christians, Easter Sunday is set aside for feasting and celebration.

The end of the Easter season. During the 40-day period beginning with Easter Sunday, Christians celebrate the time when Jesus reappeared to some of His followers. This period ends on Ascension Day, or Ascension Thursday. On this day, the story of Jesus' rise to heaven is read in churches. In Catholic churches, the Easter paschal candle is put out on Ascension Day. The Easter season concludes 10 days later with the feast of Pentecost, when the apostles reported that the Holy Spirit had entered into them. Christians believe that the church began at that time.

From the World Book Encyclopedia:
is the most important Christian festival of the year. Easter celebrates the return to life of Jesus Christ, the founder of Christianity, after His Crucifixion. Jesus' return to life is called the Resurrection. The Gospels tell that on the morning two days after Jesus' death His tomb was found empty. Soon, Jesus' followers began to see Him and talk with Him. Christians believe Jesus' Resurrection means that they, too, can receive new life after death. The Easter festival celebrates this belief.

Most Christians observe Easter on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. Thus, the festival can occur on any Sunday between March 22 and April 25. In the Eastern Orthodox Churches, the celebration of Easter may take place later because these churches use additional factors in calculating the date of the festival.

The Easter festival is closely associated with spring. The new plant life that appears in spring symbolizes the new life Christians gain because of Jesus' Crucifixion and Resurrection. The word Easter may have come from an early English word, Eastre. Some scholars say Eastre was the name of a pagan goddess of spring, the name of a spring festival, or the name of the season itself. Other scholars believe the word Easter comes from the early German word eostarun, which means dawn. This word may be an incorrect translation of the Latin word albae, meaning both dawn and white. Easter was considered a day of "white" because newly baptized church members wore white clothes at Easter observances.

Related Pages: Annie's Easter Symbols and Their Meanings Page
Annie's "Why do you have Bunnies & Eggs on your Easter Pages? Page
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