The customs, and symbols associated with the observance of Easter have ancient origins observed not only by the Teutonic tribes of Central Europe, rites of spring, but go way back into antiquity.
The concept of the egg as a symbol of fertility and renewed life goes back to the ancient Egyptians, and Persians. They observed the custom of coloring eggs in spring colors, eating eggs during their spring festivals, and also gave their friends eggs as gifts .
The Persians believed that the earth had hatched from a giant egg. Therefore, the egg represents the growth and life of spring that returns to the Earth about the Easter time .
These ancient ideas that the egg was a symbol of new life was adopted by Christianity as a symbol of Christ's resurrection. The color red, used in the dyeing of the eggs has been variously interpreted as signifying the sun, fire, and the blood of Christ shed on Calvary, and the joy of Easter .
Easter Hare Or Rabbit
Like the easter egg, the easter hare is an accepted part of the traditional Easter story that came to Christianity from antiquity. The hare is an associated symbol of the moon in the legends of ancient Egypt, and other peoples. It belongs to the night, since it comes out only then to feed. It is born with its eyes open, and like the moon is the open-eyed watcher of the skies .
Through the fact that the Egyptian word for hare un , also means "open" and, "period", the hare came to be associated with the idea of periodicity both lunar and human. A symbol of the beginning of new life in both young men and women, and also as a symbol of fertility, and the renewal of life .
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As such the hare became linked with the Easter or paschal egg. The date of Easter is also fixed in accordance with the phases of the moon. In the western world, and the USA, where the hare is unfamiliar, it is the easter rabbit which is fabled to lay the eggs in the nests prepared for it or to hide the eggs for the children to find .
The cross, though considered by some branches of Christianity (Jehovah's Witnesses) as a pagan symbol, has been adopted as an Easter symbol of Christ's victory over death. It represents the crucifixion of Jesus Christ .
Easter Around The World
Christians in many parts of the world celebrate before the Easter season with masquerades, carnivals, feasts, and even sporting events. A carnival is a time of celebration before a religious feast day, but usually the 3 days preceding the Lenten season .
On Ash Wednesday, many Christians put on sack cloth to start the solemn 40-day period of fasting, and prayer in acts of atonement, and repentance. For the very word carnival comes from the Greek word carnus which is of the flesh. You can do just about anything, even hold a pact with the devil then repent, and be baptized during the season of Lent .
Carnivals & Masquerades
Carnivals and masquerades around the world that are of significance include carnival at Maastricht, bordering the Netherlands and Belgium ; Mardi Gras, or New Orleans carnival in the United States of America (USA).
Carnival at Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, as representative of Latin America; and in the Caribbean, the island of Trinidad takes the spot light over the annual crop over festival of Barbados, and others like the Jamaica carnival.
The recently concluded 18th Commonwealth games 2006, in Melbourne Australia saw the host country topping the list of medals. India which would represent the developed, and developing countries placed fourth. The Commonwealth Caribbean island of Jamaica finished in the top ten position with a record 10 gold medals, and a total of 22 medals .
Other traditional sporting events at Easter worthy of a revisit,includes the annual egg and spoon race observed on the lawns of the White House in the USA. In Europe the winter sports continue to be observed .
The lamb is one of the traditional easter foods. Biscuits, and cakes shaped like the lamb decorate many tables at Easter time. The symbol of the lamb comes from the Jewish Passover holiday in which the Jews sacrificed a lamb called the paschal Lamb during their traditional Passover celebration in the Temple at Jerusalem. Early Christians interpreted that sacrifice as being symbolic of Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin(s) of the world .
Eat special buns called hot cross buns during the Easter season... The bun is actually a bread loaf that has been leavened and spiced, unlike the Jewish Passover unleavened bread which is eaten with roasted lamb, along with bitter herbs. Each bun has a cross-shaped mark on its crust .
The Greeks, and Portuguese eat specially baked circular flat easter loaves marked with a cross and decorated with easter eggs. In Britain the tradition of eating hot cross buns at tea-time on Good Friday found its way into the colonial societies of the western world .
In the Jamaican society, the hot cross bun has its variety in the square shaped spiced buns with added fruits and raisins. A delightful sandwich of bun and cheese has become the Jamaican easter feast .
Fish has been substituted as a protein source for meat during the Easter season by most Christians, in recollection of Christ's 40-day fast in the wilderness, in which he was tempted by the devil .
It is a scientific fact that after 30 days of not eating, or starvation, one is at death's doors. Therefore the choice of fish rather than vegetables by Christians is of religious significance .
In concluding, often unexplained religious customs connected with the Easter season come from the ancient festivals of spring, as far back as the Egyptians; others are from the Jewish Passover celebration .