The gloomy days are behind us, and sunshine is returning to the world, not a moment too soon either, seeing as it is the end of April. Together with the beautiful sunshine, we also get a day off. This weekend will be Easter weekend, and that means three days instead of two, and we return to work only on Tuesday. Our walrus mascot is so happy to celebrate Easter that he donned a bunny outfit, and all across the country parents are stocking up on candy and delicious foods, and kids are excited and getting less and less sleep as the amazing weekend draws nearer. But how does the bunny have anything to do with Easter? And what is this holiday about, besides ham and eggs? Read our holiday article to find out.
Western Christianity (Catholics, Protestants, Reformed, etc.) celebrates Easter between the 22nd of March and the 25th of April. This is one of those holidays that is quite mobile, and is on different days each year. According to the Nicene synod in 325, Easter was set as first Sunday after the first full moon after the equinox (which is March 21st). Calculating when this will happen is rather hard sometimes.
According to the Bible, Jesus was dead for three days, from Friday to Sunday. By dying on the cross, Christians believe that he cleansed mankind of their sins, and by resurrecting three days later, he defeated death. Easter is a celebration of Jesus Christ and his death, by which Christians gain entrance into Heaven, but this holiday also marks the beginning of spring. The holiday is prefaced with a 40 day fast to commemorate Jesus starving in the desert for 40 days, and Easter is a giant party at the end of those 40 days of self-restriction. This is the first time in 40 days that Christians are allowed to eat meat or drink alcohol. The last week is the “holy week”, and the week after Easter is the “white week” which lasts until Sunday.
The fast culminates in Easter Sunday, which symbolizes the arrival into Jerusalem. The priests wear red on this day, to symbolize the martyrdom of Christ. Each year, the passion is read from a different Gospel (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), according to a set order. On Thursday, we commemorate the last supper, and only one mass is recited, at night. The only exceptions are basilicas and cathedrals, which hold chrism rituals during the day, during which priests renew their vows.
On Friday there is no mass at all. Instead of mass, there is a liturgy, and sacrifices are performed. Priests wear red or purple on this day. On Holy Saturday there is no mass or any other liturgy at all. As Christians believe that sun down signifies the end of the day, the mass held on Saturday night is called the Sunday vigil. This is the longest and most complicated ritual in Christianity. The ritual is composed of five parts, and priests wear white when they perform the ritual. It consists of these five parts; light liturgy, liturgy of the word, liturgy of the Cross, liturgy of the Eucharist, and finally the Easter procession.
On Sunday, during the day, it is customary to go to Church. As Easter is the most important holiday in Christianity, it lasts for 8 days, and Christians celebrate Easter until Pentecost rolls around.
The different days of Easter have different folk traditions associated with them. On Easter Sunday, for example, many Hungarians hold the consecration of the food ritual, in which the food becomes blessed. In the old days people would arrive to mass with a basket covered with cloth. The basket would contain duck, kalács (a type of sweet bread), eggs, ham, wine and mutton. The egg was a symbol of rebirth, and is also adopted as a symbol of family harmony. The tradition holds that the family has to eat the eggs together, so that when someone strays from their family, they will remember who they ate the meal with, and this will make them return to the right path. The wine and mutton represents the blood and body of Christ.
Easter Monday is a day that is rather unwelcomed by most girls, and it’s not very hard to see why. Men go around and water women during this time, who repay the favor with painted eggs, money and small treats. Some places still hold to the tradition of using a bucket of water for watering, but most men are more sensible, and carry a small vial of perfume, and spray the girls with just a little bit of the liquid. The Biblical roots of this tradition go back to the story of the Roman soldiers dousing the rejoicing women at Christ’s grave when they heard of his resurrection. Red is traditionally worn on this day, as it was seen as a color that gives protection, and it can also be an allegory to Christ’s blood.
So where does the rabbit fit in? Easter is a time of fertility, which is meant to give a bountiful harvest and the multiplication of the herd as well. And on animals are more fertile than rabbits. The eggs carry new life and new hopes, and water helps secure a plentiful harvest. So the rabbit does not have a very traditional role, but we like him and he has become synonymous with Easter, and he has become the figure to bring presents to the kids during Easter.
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