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The Traditions of Easter

By Jeffry Boatright

With the budding of pecan trees, warmer temperatures and longer days, spring is officially in the air. It is a time to smell the newly tilled soil, contemplate garden-fresh vegetables and become reacquainted with favorite fishing and swimming holes. It is a wonderful time indeed. In addition to these daily joys of spring, Easter, which is perhaps the most sacred day for Christians will be celebrated this Sunday, April 16.

Numerous churches and organizations will present plays and programs that portray the events that make this season so consecrated and joyous. One notable event is the annual Walk for Christ, which will again be held the day before Easter, in Live Oak. Participants are encouraged to assemble at Paul Langford Stadium, which is located at the intersection of Houston Ave. and 7th Street in Live Oak, to join in the annual journey through town. This event has become a symbol of support and unity for Christ. The annual Walk for Christ event will begin at 10 a.m., April 15.

While the Walk for Christ event is an enjoyable occasion, participants are reminded of the significance of Easter and its colossal impact on Christianity. Christians worldwide celebrate the miraculous birth of Christ at Christmas, but Easter solidifies Christ’s substantiated claim of deity and wholly completes His purpose for walking on Earth. In short, Christians believe that Jesus Christ was and is the Son of God. Furthermore, Christian tradition maintains that Christ was born of a virgin, began His ministry around the age of thirty, and the scriptures were fulfilled when He was crucified in Jerusalem. Further fulfillment of the scriptures occurred when Christ was resurrected from the dead on the third day and was subsequently seen on multiple occasions by many before His impending ascension into Heaven some 40 days later.

Although the actual date Easter is celebrated has fluctuated over the centuries and among various churches, Christians today celebrate the sacred day the first Sunday after or on the first full moon after the spring equinox. Coinciding with the events of Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem, his betrayal, arrest, trials, crucifixion, burial and resurrection, Holy Week is observed during the week leading up to Easter. Observations associated with Easter are followed among some Christian denominations even weeks prior to Easter. For example, the Catholic Church, along with others, observe Lent, which is a season of fasting and prayer. Mardi Gras is even derived from feasting on foods to be given up during lent.

Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday, a day commemorating Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem as King of the Jews. Welcomed and worshipped by crowds, Jesus was warmly received as the crowds laid down palm leaves before him. Another day associated with Holy Week is known is Maundy Thursday or Holy Thursday. On that day, Christians celebrate Christ’s last supper with His disciples, which led into the Jewish Passover.

During that last supper, one of Christ’s disciples, Judas Iscariot, departed and betrayed Him for thirty pieces of silver. That betrayal led to the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus. Christ’s crucifixion and death occurred on Friday, which Christians now recognize as Good Friday and observe the day around much of the world. There are varied names throughout the world for Good Friday and some believe that the term Good Friday was derived from God’s Friday. While Christians agree that it was a horrible day of suffering and agony for Jesus as he was beaten, flogged, nailed to a cross, and pierced with a spear, we concur that because of His perfection and goodness, the atonement for our sins was paid on that day.

Easter is a time that is indeed embraced and esteemed by Christians around the world and it is a season filled with history and tradition. In fact, traditions vary within the Christian faith, individual denominations and families. There are certainly variations from region to region. In the Philippines, for example, some observe Holy Week by volunteering to be nailed to a cross. Local traditions might include specific meals, hunting Easter Eggs, sunrise services, or certain secular activities.

Trivial debates often seem to accompany Easter. Some question the significance or place of the Easter Bunny during such a sacred season while others insist eggs have nothing to do with the holiday. While many emphasize that eggs are a sign of fertility, others ascertain they represent rebirth. The old tradition of using evergreens, which symbolize eternal life, is still used by some churches, according to some researchers.

Although it is a season of remembrance for Christians, Easter certainly has an economic impact on our country. According to the National Retail Federation, spending for the Easter Holiday is expected to reach 18.4 billion dollars this year. With over 81 percent of Americans planning to celebrate Easter in some capacity, most of the expected purchases will be spent respectively on candy, food, gifts, greeting cards and clothing.

It is fitting that Easter coincides with springtime, when we see signs of new life and contemplate the harvest of new potatoes and early squash. It is a time of renewed hope, warmth and enthusiasm. It is a time that we reflect on the resurrection of Christ and a new birth as Christians.