18 February 2019
Easter customs to tell the Story
Easter Day comes on the Sunday [the first day of the week - the new beginning] after the commemoration of the death of Jesus on Good Friday. It is a time of celebration and hope as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and tell the stories of the empty tomb, and the appearances of Jesus to his disciples [on the beach cooking fish for breakfast, in the garden and along the road]. Our Easter symbols point to these stories, but so many have no idea of the why of our Easter customs. This Easter use the opportunity of the Easter symbols we see around us to pass on the story of hope and new life for the world to the children - grandchildren, nieces and nephews, neighbours etc. Tell them the real Easter story of Jesus and explain to people of other faiths as you give them an egg or a bun why we have them at this time of the year.
The Easter bunny is a pagan symbol which really is only a commercial item, not a Christian Easter symbol. The chocolate rabbit or Easter bunny had its origins in pre-Christian times when the rabbit or hare was the most fertile animal our forebears knew and therefore symbolized abundant new life in the spring season. In New Zealand where rabbits have multiplied greatly much to the farmers' and conservationists dismay, creating havoc with our vegetation, the rabbit as a symbol of new life rather loses its cutting edge.
So think about giving the children Easter Eggs.
Easter eggs are found in all Christian communities. The egg symbolizes new life. In medieval times eggs were given at Easter to all the servants. Apparently King Edward 1 of England (1307) had 450 eggs boiled before Easter, dyed or covered with gold leaf and distributed to the members of the royal household on Easter Day.
In recent years, artificial eggs are being made in sizes larger than that of the natural egg and mostly of chocolate, usually stuffed with sweets or other gifts. This continues the European custom when emperors and other rulers used to distribute gold-plated eggs filled with gifts to special people after the Easter service. Foil on the eggs also reflects this sort of precious gift.
You can buy chocolate eggs or you can make your own Easter eggs with hard boiled eggs and decorate the shells. Maybe you will want to hold back on the gold leaf!
If you have hollow chocolate eggs, the hollowness symbolises the empty tomb and the egg itself new life. If you have marshmallow eggs, the centre is the new life which comes after the shell is broken.
If you are going to stick to the symbolism then EASTER EGGS are eaten on EASTER SUNDAY [not before!!!!] to celebrate the new life of the resurrection. [I'm sure they can continue to be eaten after this]
Hot cross buns are another Easter custom. They are supposed to have originated in 1361 at Saint Albanís Abbey where monks distributed them to the poor, and according to tradition a hot cross bun made on Good Friday will not go bad or mouldy if stored in the right conditions. The nursery rhyme "Hot cross buns, one a penny two a penny" came from street vendors selling these buns.
For Christians the spices signify the spices of the wise men and Mary's anointing of Jesus with the spices used to prepare a body at death and the cross the symbol of the death and resurrection of Christ. Make real hot cross buns with the children when they visit and tell them why we have hot cross buns - they can be eaten on Good Friday the day of Jesus' death.
We have forgotten the symbolism of the days when the buns and eggs are eaten because the supermarkets are full of them weeks beforehand, but sometimes it is good to remember why they are eaten on a particular day as well as the symbolism of the eggs and buns.
This is an ideal time to find the stories of Jesus' life death and resurrection in our world and tell them to other people, and specially our children.
May you be encouraged to share in word and deed your faith this Easter.
Christ has died! Christ is risen ! Therefore this world has hope.
Rev. Margaret Anne Low
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