This month we are in the Season of Lent, which is the lead up to Easter. What does this all mean?
The Tuesday before the start of Lent is called Fat Tuesday or commonly referred to by the French, “Mardi Gras”. It wasn’t always what it is today, a crazy wild party where pretty much anything goes. It originated as a feast to prepare for the fasting of Lent, hence the name. People often associate it with New Orleans but it’s celebration in the United States originated in Mobile, Alabama, dating back to at least the early 1700s. What was once seen as a reverent preparation for a major religious season, is now seen as just an excuse to party.
This is follow by Ash Wednesday which marks the beginning of lent. The Ashes represent in part the dust that formed Adam in Genesis. It represents the cycle of life, that your mortal body is only temporary.
After 40 days, the end of the season culminates with Good Friday followed by Easter. Good Friday is a remembrance of the day Jesus was crucified. Easter is the celebration of the resurrection of Christ.
This coincides with the Jewish Holiday of Passover. This is why it falls on a different day each year by our calendar, as the Jewish calendar is based on lunar cycles.
We don’t know for sure the exact year of Jesus’ death, sometime in the 30s AD, the most likely candidate I have found is April 3, 33, AD. We have historical evidence of his execution under Pontius Pilate. Even among secular historians, there is little doubt that Jesus was crucified, the argument is on the details and surely the atheist historians reject any Divine interpretation.
What about the name? Many will try to tie the name to certain Pagan holidays that celebrate spring, or that the Holiday in its entirety is copied from Pagan tradition. However, most of the claims don’t find a lot of historic support. There is very little evidence that there was such a celebration prior to the celebration of Easter. There is some evidence it could have come from the German word for resurrection. So, while it is certainly true that there are various pagan spring celebrations, the connection to Easter is not well founded historically.
How did certain symbols like the Easter bunny come to be? Much like Santa Claus on Christmas, the Easter Bunny is sort of the secular mascot for a religious Holiday, unlike Santa Claus however, there was no historical figure that forms its basis. Once again, the origin is likely German, coming over to America in the 1700s. The rabbit isn’t universally associated with Easter as different countries have different animals. As for chocolate eggs, some people suggest that the eggs represent new life, as Christ was resurrected, but there isn’t solid evidence for this use. No doubt the Hallmark greeting card company had a hand in popularizing this.
Easter then, is the Christian celebration of the resurrection of Jesus and can be seen as the fulfilment of the Jewish Passover. Indeed, many parallels are drawn aside from them having the same date. Jesus is seen as the ultimate Passover lamb as he was sacrificed just as the lambs were for Passover. So Happy Easter everyone.