What would we do without spring and Easter? They go together like a horse and carriage, hot dogs and mustard or winter and Christmas. When you think about it, it's almost as if they were meant to be. And maybe they were.
After cold, bleak, bleary, bitter and snowy winters that seem to last for at least six months rather than three, spring is the most welcomed of the four seasons. And right along with it comes some of the world's three major religions. One is the Christian holiday of Easter that symbolizes the renewal of life with the resurrection of the crucified Jesus. With this renewal of life, both spring and Easter go hand in hand. It commences as Holy Week starting with Palm Sunday, Maundy or Holy Thursday, Good Friday and ends with Easter Sunday.
Spring renews us physically. Like spring daffodils, tulips, crocuses and lilies, we feel refreshed, bright and full of new energy. We feel revitalized. It's when a young man's fancy turns to thoughts of love. At least that's what they say when he presents that certain someone with bouquets of fresh blooms.
Easter, renews us spiritually. As the holiest day on the Christian calendar, it becomes food for our souls. It fortifies our faith. We feel a special bond strengthening within us that can't quite be explained with everyday language, but we know it's happening.
While Christians celebrate Easter on Sunday, April 21, our brothers and sisters of the second major religion, the Jewish faith, celebrate Passover, or Pesach, during the early spring. Derived from the Torah, or what Christians refer to as the book of Genesis from the Old Testament, it's an important Jewish festival celebrating their liberation by God from slavery in Egypt and their freedom as a nation under Moses.
Passover, like Easter, arrives at different times during the early spring. This year the Passover holiday will begin on the evening of Friday, April 19, and end on Saturday, April 27.
It's also holy days for our Muslim friends of the Islamic faith. Like Christianity and Judaism, the Islamic faith is the third major religion that can be traced back to Abraham. Its holy days this spring are called Ramadan. It commemorates the first revelation of the Qumran to Muhammad according to Islamic belief. While it can appear anywhere throughout the twelve months and last for either 29 or 30 days, depending on the phase of the crescent moon, it starts a bit later this year than Easter or Passover but is nevertheless just as sacred. This year it begins on May 6 and ends on June 3.
But for most of us, Easter Sunday and related celebrations, such as Ash Wednesday and Palm Sunday, are considered “movable feasts,” although, in western Christianity, which follows the Gregorian calendar, Easter always falls on a Sunday between March 22nd and April 25th. In Eastern Orthodox Christianity, which follows to the Julian calendar, Easter falls on a Sunday between April 4th and May 8th each year.
I've heard some ask how they're expected to believe when those who do don't even know the right date to celebrate. As with the birth of Christ, we may not know the exact date, but we do believe it happened. It's called faith. For western Christians, Easter always falls on the first Sunday following the first full moon following the spring equinox.
Gaily colored Easter eggs, chocolate bunnies, marshmallow peeps and jelly beans in colorful Easter baskets left overnight for the little ones - and some big ones, too, are just some of the treats we use to feed our sweet tooth after six weeks of sacrificing during Lent. And who doesn't love a good ol' fashioned Easter egg hunt?
Some families celebrate with a traditional dinner of lamb. We celebrate with ham. However you keep the holiday, from our house to yours, here's wishing you a very happy and holy one.
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