The History Of Easter

The history of Easter is a fascinating one with diverse roots, and is the most widely observed Christian holiday. The day signals a time of celebration and renewal. The holiday occurs with the onset of spring, a time of new life and rejuvenation with blooming flowers and budding trees. Springtime is greatly anticipated especially after a long, cold winter. Refreshing spring rains fall and together with increased hours of daylight bring plants long dormant back to life as, "The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing [of birds] is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land" (Song of Solomon 2:12). The season itself is a picture of life's renewal and victory over death making a perfect time for Christians to observe the resurrection of Jesus. Christ's followers are not the only ones to celebrate the holiday, in fact, the day has a history that pre-dates the early Church and includes pagan origins.

Before there were even dates for Easter Sunday there were celebrations. The word 'Easter' is believed to have originated from Teutonic mythology. The Anglo-Saxons lived during the medieval times in England and were of Germanic descent. They worshiped the goddess of spring, Eostre. The name was derived from Eastre, an Old English term meaning east, or the direction from the east. They dedicated the month of April to the goddess Eostre, and held celebrations in her honor at the time of the vernal equinox. The vernal, or spring, equinox, occurs on a day that has exactly twelve equal hours of daylight and nighttime. Christian missionaries eventually came to the Germanic peoples and slowly shifted the focus from worship of the goddess, celebrations at springtime and revelry of the season, to the observance of Christ's resurrection, ultimately adding more to the history of Easter. The early church kept March twenty-first as the date, due to the vernal equinox, and the start of celebrations.

Christian celebrations and dates for Easter Sunday resulted as a mixing of traditions. The Jewish Passover encompasses a span of eight days and is in memorial for the Jews escape and freedom from Egypt. The Jews based their observance of Easter on the lunar calendar of the Babylonians. The timing of the Passover was based on the moon, and Jews held festivities on the evening of the full moon. The Jewish Passover occurs during the first month of the Hebrew lunar New Year, Nissan, however, this meant that the date was subject to change from year to year since the full moon does not occur on the same date every year. Many of the early Christians were raised as Jews, which gives credence to why a good number of them felt the necessity of observing the holiday as a part of the Passover which included observance of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. However, Christians chose to celebrate on Sunday, which many viewed as the first day of the week. The resurrection in 30 A.D was thought of as another event of the Passover, and was celebrated right after. Modern celebrations and dates for Easter Sunday share similarities with the dates of the Jewish Passover.

Confusion concerning the exact dates for Easter Sunday causes many to wonder and inquire into the history of Easter. The different dates resulted from differing opinions between churches in the east and west. Those in the East believed the holiday should be observed on a weekday due to the original date in conjunction with the fourteenth of Nissan. Those in the west felt that Easter should always be observed on a Sunday, no matter what the actual date might be. The disputes led to the Council of Nicaea, held in 325 A.D. by the emperor Constantine. The ruling of the council was that the Sunday after the full moon of the vernal equinox should be the time for celebrations. Following this decision there were still complications due to the act that there was not a specific date for the Spring Equinox. After some calculations by the Alexandrians, the date was decided to be March twenty-first. Therefore, since some believed the holiday should be observed on a Sunday, the date can fall as early as March twenty-first or as late as April twenty-fifth.

The history and dates of Easter Sunday were made more complex with the addition and observance other days as well. For example, the observance of Good Friday did not come about until the fourth century. Lent is a period of forty-six days, beginning on Ash Wednesday and ending on Easter Sunday. Those who observe Lent view the time as one of penitence for sins, and as a time to prepare for the glorious celebrations of the Easter. Palm Sunday originates with Jesus' arrival into Jerusalem.

Like many holidays, Easter has been subject to secularization. However, the symbols generally associated with the holiday have deep roots. For example, the Anglo Saxons worshiped the goddess of springtime, Eastre, whose earthly symbol is a rabbit. The iconic Easter rabbit was originally brought to America by the Germans. The egg also has roots that existed before the Christian holiday. For example, not only are they a symbol of fertility but were originally exchanged as a custom at springtime, and were decorated by being wrapped with leaves and flowers. The tradition of painting eggs in different colors was so the eggs would resemble spring's sunlight, and help to make the history of Easter more colorful.

Traditional Wedding Anniversary Gifts

Traditional wedding anniversary gifts have come about over time. The earliest known gifts date back to the Middle Ages in Medieval Europe. The giving of specific items for specific anniversaries was a practice that started with the medieval Germans. In early Germany the custom was for a husband to bestow a wreath of silver upon his wife after twenty-five years of marriage, as silver represented the harmony shared in years spent together. Subsequently, a wreath of gold was given in honor of fifty years as a couple. The idea behind the gifting of precious metals was that as the number of years increased in a couple's marriage, the rarity of the item given increases. This practice began by the Germans has since been carried on into different countries and has been elaborated upon over time, as every anniversary now as a specific item which, according to the rules of etiquette, is to be given.

Tradition is a word that comes from the Latin, traditio, which literally means 'to hand down'. Modern language uses the word in a variety of ways. For example, based on the context in which the word is used, tradition can refer any number of practices or customs used by group of people that is passed from one generation to the next. An example being the giving of traditional wedding anniversary gifts, the celebration of birthdays and other of life's important events. Another use of the word can denote the practices customarily taught and followed by those with religious beliefs. Christmas is generally a holiday celebrated by Christians and is one steeped in traditions, such as the observance of the birth of Christ, and the exchanging of gifts. Basically a tradition is anything that has been kept in practice from some point in the past.

Lists of traditional wedding anniversary gifts can be easily found. The item for the first year of marriage is paper. Possibilities are limitless as to how to give the fit of paper. Scrapbooks, first editions of favorite books, even tickets to a play or movie. A special item that a spouse might give their significant other for the first year spent together could be a romantic love letter. Traditionally, a couple who has spent two years together should be gifted with an item or items made from cotton. Gifts of cotton can include anything made out of the fabric such as clothing or wall hangings. Not all items make sense and have obviously been carried over from the past, such as the third, fourth, and fifth anniversary gifts which are leather, flowers, and wood respectively. The passing of years increases the value in items. By the twentieth year, china is to be given, twenty-fifth is silver, and by the time of thirty years, pearls are to be given. Traditionally for sixtieth year, gifts include diamonds. This most likely became a tradition after Queen Victoria chose to celebrate her sixtieth year as Queen with a Diamond Jubilee.

Occasionally there are people who desire a break from tradition, yet still want a special couple to know they are being thought of as they celebrate the passing of years spent together. For such individual, free anniversary e-cards can be just what they are searching for. Those familiar with the internet have access to hundreds of websites that offer many different varieties of electronic greetings that can be e-mailed to couples directly. Electronic greetings can be as simple as a tasteful graphic with a personal message, or can be elaborate, complete with animations and accompanied with music. There are free anniversary e-cards available for every variation in taste and style.

There are many ways to incorporate traditional wedding anniversary gifts into meaningful and heartfelt objects, or even in addition to free anniversary e-cards. The traditional gift for twenty-five years of marriage is silver. This can be given in the form of silver jewelry, picture frames or pendants. For more of a unique approach, a plaque embroidered with silver thread, or an elegantly decorated photo album with silver highlights. Those who love flowers might enjoy a silver rose, or vase etched with the precious metal, as occasionally, etiquette demands that one try be creative when planning on gifts for particular anniversaries. The most celebrated wedding anniversary is the fiftieth, and is considered the golden anniversary. There is much significance in two spending fifty years as a couple. Couples who celebrate their fiftieth year together are senior citizens and most likely would not appreciate nick-knack presents that would serve to only add to already existing clutter they might be trying to discard of. People who insist on sticking to tradition can still incorporate gold, but should perhaps do so by simply decorating a practical gift with gold paper and ribbon. Instead of a generic golden wall plaque, a message or poem written especially for the couple and embroidered in gold would be treasured by an elderly couple.

The same idea can be used for any anniversary. Traditional wedding anniversary gifts for a couple's seventh year include wool or lace. Not every couple would know what to do with, let alone have any use for lace or wool. A more practical way of incorporating this gift is to acquire a gift for the couple that would be useful, and then decorate the package with a delicate lace handkerchief. Another idea for those who like to work with yarn, matching hand-knit sweaters, mittens, hats, or other accessories would be ideal for a seventh wedding anniversary celebrated in the colder months. No matter how one chooses to present an item, the couple will enjoy being thought of even if by simply receiving free anniversary e-cards. Presents are appreciated by couples in love, especially as, "A gift is as a precious stone in the eyes of him that hath it" (Proverbs 17:8).

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