Friday, May 1, 2009

Origin of Easter

Easter! A Feast Day! A Day to Celebrate! But what is its origin? Its meaning besides Yeshua Ben Joseph rising from the dead 3 days after his crucifixion….
Science is involved, Math is involved, Geography is involved, Religion is involved, Myth is involved…and all because of Culture!

Easter was originally a pagan celebration of renewal and rebirth.
Celebrated in the early spring, honoring the Saxon goddess Eastre “to shine".
The goddess flies through the heavens surrounded by beams of light and animals.

Similar Goddesses were celebrated in Spring in other ancient cultures around the World :
A p h r o d i t e f r o m C y p r u s
A s h t o r e t h f r o m I s r a e l
A s t a r t f r o m G r e e c e
D e m e t e r f r o m M y c e n a e
H a t h o r f r o m E g y p t
I s h t a r f r o m A s s y r i a
K a l i f r o m I n d i a
O s t a r a , N o r s e G o d d e s s o f f e r t i l i t y .

The Rebirth of a Spring Deity has been celebrated through rituals and feasting not only by Anglo-Saxons but by other cultures all around the world!

Around this time, Hindus celebrate festivals such as Chaitra Varsha Pratipada ! Yugadi ! Cheti Chand ! or Gudipadwa! This is followed by eight days of fasting for Goddess Parvati; mother goddess who is the representation of Shakti, which is primordial cosmic energy that runs throughout the entire universe.
The ancient Egyptians marked the rebirth of the God Osiris (Egyptian God of the Afterlife) with eight days of celebrations.
In China people were offering each other painted red eggs during the Ching Ming (Pure Brightness) festival as far back as 3,000 years ago.
From many of these celebrations is how we get the eight days of Holy Week (the climax of Lent and preparation for Easter) which begins on Palm Sunday and finishes on Easter Sunday.
In ancient Rome, an annual festival was held for the rebirth of the God Attis, whose return was celebrated by dining, music, parades and sporting events. This festival was held just after the spring equinox, and it is from here that we derive the date of Easter, which always falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the spring equinox. This means Easter can fall any time between March 21 and April 25 (my birthday).

Easter is a moveable feast following the cycle of the Moon and is also linked to the Jewish Passover because of its position in the calendar.

All churches accepted the computation of the Alexandrian Church (now the Coptic Church) that Easter is the first Sunday after the Paschal Full Moon that is on or after March 21 (the ecclesiastic "vernal equinox").
An equinox occurs twice a year, when the tilt of the Earth's axis is inclined neither away from nor towards the Sun, the Sun being vertically above a point on the Equator. It is equal and balanced. The equinox is the time when a passage happens.
The name "equinox" is derived from the Latin aequus (equal) and nox (night), because around the equinox, the night and day are approximately equally long.

Bas-relief in Persepolis - a symbol Iranian/Persian Nowruz - on the day of a spring equinox, the power of an eternally fighting bull (personifying the Earth) and that of a lion (personifying the Sun), are equal.
The name of the Easter festival is derived from the Latin Pascha.
In Spanish, Easter is la Pascua,
in Italian Pasqua
and in Portuguese Páscoa.
In French, the name of Easter Pâques
In R u s s i a n   it  is    P a s k h a.

Why the egg? Well, for rebirth. Life! Spring! In the Indian epic Mahabharat, Yaksha asks the question, “What has life but does not move?” Yudhishtra answers “Egg”.

In former Yugoslavia, children design nests for hares in their gardens and the next morning find brightly painted eggs deposited there. In Germany and Hungary children carry baskets decorated with painted hares, in which they collect chocolate eggs and other small gifts on Easter Sundays…just like our little brothers and sisters do here in America!
How funny it is that Hares or Rabbits have baby rabbits, not eggs.
Silly traditions but smiles they do bring! I remember my mother and I would always die eggs the day before Easter, then on Easter morning, before we would go to church, I would run outside with my little pink curlers still in my hair and search for the eggs. And always there was some big white stuffed Easter Bunny waiting for me high up in a tree branch holding chocolate in its hand! Yum yum

Simply said, spring is a return to abundance and beauty after long, cold winters! The dogwoods begin to bloom, green leaves bud from the trees, the black leather coats are put away and the white linen shirts are being pressed getting ready to wear!
As we can see, Easter is a holiday special to all forms of life, all religions and through out ancient times. Science and Spirituality make for a joyous holiday that one can spend with friends and family or one can spend in the silence of their own heart! The crucifixion of the old…letting die what needs to die…releasing what needs to go…and clearing out space for the birth, the new, the spring, the light!
What are we inviting in to the new Spring of our life?

I hope you enjoyed this cultural jambalaya account of the history of Easter. I feel that if we understand the chronology and interpretation from all aspects of culture and tradition, we can then clear out the stereotypical meaning and make space for our own creation of what it means to us personally.

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