Easter is the highest festival of Christianity. But what is actually celebrated? The Easter story for reading aloud and the most important customs for Easter
Bunnies and brightly colored eggs are among the best-known Easter symbols
Easter is the most important and highest festival of Christianity. Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. "In spring there are similar festivals in all cultures, where awakening the nature and so that life is celebrated", explains Ludwig Mödl, Professor Emeritus for Pastoral Theology at LMU Munich. "Easter has two roots: on the one hand a pagan spring festival called Ostara and on the other hand the Jewish Pasha Festival, during which the Jews celebrate their liberation from Egyptian slavery." Easter is Easter Week, which begins on Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter. A few days later the actual Easter follows with Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday.
The Easter story for reading aloud
At the time that Jesus was alive, many people came to Jerusalem for the Jewish Pasha Festival every year. The festival lasted several days and the families sacrificed a lamb, roasted and ate it together. Jesus was also a Jew and followed this custom. According to Easter story, he came to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and rode in on a donkey the town on. People cheered him and put palm branches on the ground so the donkey didn’t have to walk directly on the dusty ground. The Jews hoped that Jesus would liberate them because Jerusalem was occupied by the Romans at the time. But the Romans didn’t like that Jesus was so popular. They were afraid that he would get too much power.
On Maundy Thursday celebrates the last supper today – just like Jesus did back then. At the supper of the Pasha feast, he drank wine with his twelve apostles, broke bread and ate it. According to history, he knew that one of the twelve apostles would betray him to the Romans. As a sign that he still loved them and was not above them, he washed their feet. After the meal, he went to the Mount of Olives and prayed until late at night. He was afraid because he knew he was going to die. During the prayer, Roman soldiers came and arrested him. He was right – one of his disciples, Judas, had betrayed him. Jesus was led before Pilate, the Roman governor. Pilate asked him if he was the king of the Jews. Jesus answered yes. Then Pilate sentenced him to death on the cross. The Romans laughed at him and put on a crown of branches of thorns. He had to carry his heavy cross on a mountain himself. There he was crucified and died. Later, his friends and mother took him off the cross, wrapped him in towels, and placed him in a cave. They rolled a large rock in front of the entrance to lock the grave.
On Easter Sunday, some women looked at the grave and saw that the rock rolled over and the grave was empty. They were confused and wondered how someone could roll away the big rock in front of the entrance. Then an angel appeared to them and told them that Jesus rose from the dead. In the evening the apostles gathered in a house. Suddenly Jesus appeared among them. He said that he rose and was taken to heaven by God.
Easter customs and their meaning
"The egg is a symbol of life in most cultures", says Ludwig Mödl. From the outside, an egg looks lifeless, almost like a stone. But something grows inside. At some point it breaks the hard shell. "A cute chick comes out. This symbolizes our feeling that nature awakens and recovers in spring, the most impressive."
coloring Easter eggs
To celebrate spring, people used to decorate the eggs. "They tied a sheet on it and colored it with an onion stock", explains Ludwig Mödl. After cooking, a white spot in the form of the leaf was visible on the egg. Later, during the 40-day Lent before Easter, it was forbidden to eat meat and eggs. However, since the chickens continued to lay eggs, they cooked the people to make them last longer. To distinguish them from the raw eggs, they colored them – mostly in red. This color symbolizes the suffering and the shed blood of Christ. "But blood is not just death", explains Ludwig Mödl. "It has always been a sign of life."
to look for Easter eggs
At the pagan spring festival Ostara, people used to give themselves decorated and colored eggs. When Christianity prevailed as a religion, some bishops banned this tradition. But because people still wanted to give themselves eggs, they hid them in a field and had friends and relatives look for them. "This is the most likely explanation for the fact that we are hiding Easter eggs today", says Ludwig Mödl. "But you cannot be absolutely sure."
The hare has always been a symbol of fertility because it is one of the animals that have a particularly large number of offspring. It was also the symbol of the pagan goddess of fertility, Eostre, and the Ostara Festival was held in her honor. The Christians then integrated this pagan symbol into their Easter festival. That was a good fit: the rabbit was also known as a symbol of life and rebirth – and that’s what Christian Easter is all about.
The custom of the Easter lamb goes back to the Jewish Pascha festival. "The Jews celebrate their liberation from Egyptian slavery at the festival", says Ludwig Mödl. "They sacrifice a lamb for the glory of God and prepare it according to strict rules with certain herbs." Jesus was also a Jew and celebrated the Passover. At the last supper he already knew that he would die. He called himself a sacrificial lamb as that "Lamb Of God".
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