For many Christians around the world, Holy Week began yesterday Palm Sunday, which commemorates the arrival of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem. Holy Week continues through Holy Thursday, observing the event of the Last Supper; Good Friday, marking the crucifixion of Christ; and Easter Sunday, celebrating his resurrection.
Because many Christians today are eager to renew their knowledge of Easter, findingDulcinea offers this Web Guide to Easter, offering the best information online about the beliefs, practices and traditions surrounding Lent, Holy Week and Easter.
As a sample of all there is to learn, findingDulcinea lists the Top 9 Things You Didn't Know About Easter:
1. Most Christians celebrate Easter on the first Sunday falling after the first full moon that follows the vernal equinox (the day on which day and night are approximately equal in length) which usually occurs on March 20. The ecumenical agreement for determining the date for Easter was reached at the Council of Nicea in 325 AD
2. Orthodox Christian Churches celebrate Easter on a different day because they still follow the Julian calendar, while other Christian churches adopted the Gregorian calendar in the 16th century.
3. The word Easter originates from Estre, a Teutonic Goddess of springtime. Pascha, the Orthodox term for Easter, comes from Pesach, the Hebrew word for Passover.
4. The 40 days of Lent is symbolic of Jesus' sojourn in the wilderness of Judea, preparing for his public ministry while being tempted by Satan. There are actually 47 days from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday, but the seven Sundays are traditionally considered days to feast in celebration of the resurrection of Christ.
5. Eggs have long been associated with Easter. For a time, they were forbidden during Lent, and then presented at the Easter table, painted red to symbolize joy. Some Christians view eggs as symbolic of the tomb that Jesus left empty. But the concept of eggs as symbols of new life is probably rooted in pagan springtime traditions.
6. Eastern Orthodox churches celebrate the Service of the Bridegroom at the beginning of Easter Week. It is a custom that recalls the parable of 10 virgins (Mt. 251-13). Five wise virgins stayed awake, keeping their candles lit, and waited for the bridegroom while the five foolish ones slept and missed their opportunity. The bridegroom is a symbol for Christ.
7. A popular tradition in Mexico and other Latin cultures is to hold a passion play, or recreation of Good Friday. For Mexican men, it is an honor and a challenge to take part in the passion plays. Preparations last an entire year and the man chosen to play Jesus must carry a cross weighing 200 pounds.
8. On the day after Easter, in Poland and in Polish-American neighborhoods in Buffalo, New York and in South Bend, Indiana, people engage in a public, all-day water fight. The day is known as Smigus Dyngus.
9. During the Middle Ages, Christians across Europe would meet on hilltops to watch the sun rise on Easter morning. They rang bells, fired cannons and sang hymns. A similar tradition still exists in Austria.