Easter Marks the Kickoff of Spring
Many cultures hold festivals and celebrate holidays on or near the Spring Equinox. For example, people worldwide celebrate Easter on the first Sunday after the paschal full Moon. This Christian holiday includes ancient earth-based Spring celebrations, rituals, and customs like decorating eggs and scavenger hunts.
Spring Equinox is an important event for Druids and Wiccans. These groups draw their beliefs and traditions from earth-based (pagan) wisdom. Adherents gather to greet the Spring Equinox sunrise at Stonehenge in England.
Whereas the Japanese believe the Buddha physically appears to guide lost souls in finding their way to the afterlife. Buddhists visit ancestral gravesites on the Spring Equinox, cleaning headstones and leaving flowers. They also offer food and pay their respects.
Other nations hold special festivals to celebrate Spring Equinox, including India's Holi festival. In addition, the Persian New Year, Norooz, is commemorated on the Spring Equinox. In 2010, the UN General Assembly designated March 21st as International Norooz Day.
Easter traditions differ globally, from Holy Week in Columbia to kite flying in Bermuda and from Germany's painted-egg trees to Hot Cross Buns from England.
Most of the 195 countries recognized by the United Nations observe the holiday, but many celebrations are not directly centered around Christian traditions. For example, adherents in the Southern Hemisphere celebrate Easter at the same time as Northerners, but it is their Fall.
Christians in Romania, Serbia, Greece, and other Orthodox countries observe Easter one to two weeks later than other countries because Orthodox churches follow the Julian Calendar.
Christians Celebrate Easter
Easter honors Jesus Christ's sacrifice. He died on the cross (Good Friday), was buried in a borrowed tomb, and on the third day (Sunday), He conquered death to save humankind. Christians believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that His death and resurrection reconciled humanity with its Creator.
Adherents say that this reconciliation offers the possibility of a new life. Their traditional Easter greeting celebrates this promise: When someone declares, "Christ is Risen," everyone replies, "He is Risen, Indeed!"
On Good Friday, thousands of Christians in Jerusalem retrace Jesus's steps before his crucifixion. The Way of the Cross procession starts in the Christian Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City.
According to Deseret News, U.S. pastors report their church's Easter attendance is larger than Christmas. The increased numbers may be due to Spring's new life, freedom, and renewal promises.
Some of America's additional holiday accompaniments include fancy bonnets, parades, Spring flowers, rabbits, and baskets full of candies and chocolate eggs.
Easter week in the Republic of Vanuatu, a South Pacific Ocean nation, is full of church activities. These include Good Friday and Easter Monday, which are official holidays. In addition, they gather to worship at sunrise on Resurrection Sunday.
Jennifer Stasak for Wycliffe explained that the holiday is celebrated in African churches from Maundy Thursday through Easter Sunday. People attend vigils to paise Jesus's resurrection. "Churches are often decorated with cloths that have butterflies, flowers, and more on them," Stasak continued.
Christian churches in Ethiopia celebrate Faskia. During the 55 days leading up to Easter, Ethiopian Christians fast from meat and animal byproducts. Then, on Saturday night, they attend a somber vigil that turns into a dancing festival when the music breaks out on Sunday morning.
New Zealand Kiwi and Australian Christians
New Zealanders and Australians do not celebrate bunnies because they are invasive pests. On Easter, New Zealanders compete in a 24-hour rabbit hunt.
However, Australians do not hold shooting competitions. Instead, they have replaced the iconic chocolate Easter bunny with chocolate Bilbies to raise awareness that these domestic cat-sized marsupial omnivores are close to extinction.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware