Contributed by Leanne Guenther
Jesus Christ died on a cross on a Friday almost two thousand years ago. Christians believe that on the following Sunday, Christ rose from the dead and, in doing so, proved that He is the Son of God. The day Jesus died and was buried is known as Good Friday. The following Sunday is Easter.
Christians celebrate the resurrection of the Son of God each year between March 22nd and April 25th (the first Sunday after the vernal equinox).
Religious celebrations include family gatherings and special Easter church services.
In olden times, Christian monks were very good at explaining their religion to those who hadn't heard of God or Jesus. They almost always took symbols of significance of the people they were teaching and used those symbols to teach about God.
The timing of Easter was such that it coincided with the spring festivals of many pagan religions. (In northern Europe, the goddess of spring was Eostre -- some people say that Easter may have even gotten its name from this goddess).
These spring festivals celebrated the wakening of the world after spring. Luckily, this "awakening" went very well with the monks teaching of Jesus' resurrection! The ideas of the rebirth of spring were merged with the Christian teachings of Jesus resurrection to form the Easter holiday most of us know today.
Easter traditions differ around the world. Here are just a few of them.
Children in the United States and Canada say the Easter bunny or rabbit brings eggs at Easter. In Germany and England, they say the hare brings them. The hare looks like a rabbit, but it's larger, with longer ears and legs.
In Australia, rabbits are quite a nuisance as they are not native to the land. For this reason, there is an attempt being made to dub the Bilby as the the chief egg bringer of the land. For lack of a better description, the Bilby looks a bit like a cross between a mouse and a rabbit.
In Italy, Belgium and France, children say Easter eggs are brought by the church bells. There, church bells do not ring from Good Friday until Easter Sunday. Because of this, people say that the bells have flown off to Rome. As the bells fly back home for Easter, they drop colored eggs for boys and girls to find.
But there are more foods than eggs to enjoy on Easter!
People in Russia eat an Easter bread that is full of plump white raisins and tastes like cake. In some countries of Eastern Europe, people enjoy an Easter Cake called babka. It's shaped like a skirt -- babka means "little old woman". Easter cakes in Italy are shaped like a rabbit, which is a symbol of birth and new life and many other countries make cookies and cakes shaped like a lamb, a symbol of Jesus. Hot cross buns are another traditional Easter bread with icing in the shape of a cross.
Visit our Easter Activities for loads of crafts and coloring pages to help you celebrate the occasion.
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