| Easter is the oldest of all Christian festivals.
It embodies the spirit of life for devotees, as they recall the widely believed
Christian legend of the resurrection of Christ. Easter honors day and its brightness.
It marks the transition from night to day, and from death to life. A time for
joy and happiness epitomizing new beginnings, it rejoices at the spring harvest
season. According to the Bible, on the Friday after the Passover feast in Jerusalem,
Jesus was sentenced to death at the instigation of some Jewish priests. They believed
that he was misleading the people by telling them not to pay taxes to the emperor.
They also accused him of falsely claiming to be the Messiah. Jesus was tried and
crucified along with two criminals. After he was declared dead, a man named Joseph
took his body down from the cross, wrapped it in a linen sheet and placed it in
a tomb that had been dugout of solid rock. Some women from Galilee saw that the
body had been placed in the grave without being anointed with any of the customary
spices or perfumes. They went home and prepared the spices and perfumes. The following
day was Sabbath, so they rested, in accordance with the decree of the Jewish law.
Very early on Sunday morning, the women went to the tomb with the spices.
|| They saw that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance
of the tomb, but they could not find the body of Jesus inside. Suddenly, they
saw two men in bright shinning clothes standing beside them. The men, who were
angels, asked the women why they were looking for the body of a man who had been
raised and was alive. The women ran to tell their families and the good news spread
like wildfire. People rejoiced at the return of the Son of God. As it is believed
that the resurrection took place on a Sunday, the feast too is celebrated on a
Sunday on varying dates between March 22and April 25 and is therefore called a
movable feast. In India, Easter is observed on the first Sunday after the full
moon following the vernal equinox. The origin of the word Easter is unknown. Some
link it to Easter; the Anglo-Saxon Teutonic goddess of spring and fertility, to
whose worship a month corresponding to April was dedicated. Her festival was celebrated
on the day of the vernal equinox. Past, another name for Easter, suggests a relation
with the Peso festival of the Jews. The early Christians, many of who were of
Jewish origin and brought up in that tradition, regarded Easter as a new feature
of the Passover festival. They celebrated it to commemorate the advent of the
Messiah as foretold by the Prophets.
| People visit friends and
relatives and exchange-decorated eggs. The egg symbolizes new life breaking through
the captivity of the hard eggshell. Probably
a pre-Christian symbol, it was adapted to illustrate the release of Christ from
his tomb. Earlier these eggs were painted at home. The designs were remarkably
similar to the traditional Hindu alpana motifs. But now these eggs are made of
chocolates and filled with sweets. They are readily available at confectioneries
during Easter. The Easter bunny or rabbit is also very popular. The rabbit is
an extraordinarily fertile creature and therefore represented spring. Some also
distribute and exchange laddoos and rasagullas instead of western fare. At home,
people come together to participate in the ceremonial Easter feast. The most significant
Easter food is lamb. The main dish of the meal, it symbolizes Christ, the Lamb
of God. There may be minor variations in the rituals observed by various peoples.
But the spirit of joy and hope is universal.