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Easter Symbols and History

Posted by Cinda On March - 28 - 2013

Easter is a Christian feast that commemorates the resurrection of Christ. It’s observed and celebrated on the first Sunday following the full moon that occurs on or after March 21 (or one week later if the full moon falls on Sunday. Easter always falls between March 22 and April 25. Originally, Easter was a pagan festival honoring Eastore, a Teutonic goddess of light and spring. Sacrifices were offered in her honor. However, as early as the eighth century, Easter was used to designate the annual Christian celebration of Christ’s Resurrection. Old World customs and Spring Festivals started the traditions we know today.

lilyThe WHITE LILY – symbol of the resurrection.  RABBITS and COLORED EGGS have come from pagan antiquity as symbols of new life.  Most of the symbols below are used only during the Easter season but others are a part of the Christian life and worship throughout the year.

WHITE means purity. (See 2 Chronicles. 5:12; Psalms 51:7; Isaiah 1:18 and Revelation 3:18; 7:14) Jesus, at his transfiguration, appeared in raiment “white as the light” (Matt. 17:2) White is also the symbol of holiness. The high priest’s holy garments were made of white linen – Leviticus 16:4, 32 Jesus became our High Priest.

PURPLE is royalty and wealth. Judges 8:26 and Luke 12:19

GREEN represents new life. Psalms 92:12-15 & Jeremiah 11:16. Sadly, in our generation, it is also known to mean money or envy.

JesusOnCrossThe CROSS is the central, tangible (and most common) representation of the Christian faith and is present in churches and many homes. For Catholics, the crucifix is a cross with the image of Jesus’ body on it. It symbolizes the sacrifice Jesus made. An empty cross, that is, without the figure of Christ crucified, reminds Christians of Jesus’ victory over death and the new life and hope this victory brings to believers. The cross is the symbol of redemption. Christians, throughout the centuries, have adopted different styles of crosses. Most use the Latin cross which is a vertical post with a shorter horizontal crosspiece above the center. Many Eastern Orthodox Churches use the Greek cross, which has four arms of equal length.

Many European Churches do not use a cross on top of their spires. Instead, they use roosters. A rooster reminds them of Peter’s denying Jesus three times. To them, it is a symbol and reminder to not deny Christ. (Matthew 26:69-75)

CANDLES represent Jesus as the “Light of the World” (John 8:12) and are burned during many Easter celebrations.

EASTER LILIES are a symbol for purity; a pure new life that comes to Christians through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Interesting note: The beautiful white “Madonna Lily” was used for years as the Easter lily. It often failed to bloom in time for Easter, however, and so Bermuda lilies were substituted.

eastereggs2EGGS are unrelated to the Resurrection of Jesus, but have become a big part of today’s society and do have roots to ancient times. Eggs represent new life. They have been a symbol of spring for as long as man can remember. Exchanging and eating Easter eggs is a popular custom in many countries. In most cases, chicken eggs are used. The eggs are hard-boiled and dyed in various colors and patterns. Many countries have their own traditional patterns. Probably the most famous Easter eggs are those designed in Ukraine and Poland, where Christians decorate the eggs with complicated red, black, and white patterns.

Children hunt for Easter eggs inside or outside their homes in many countries. Children in Washington, D.C. have been invited to roll eggs on the White House lawn since 1878. Christians adopted the egg as an Easter symbol because of the relationship between Easter and the renewal of life.

RABBITS have a pagan root and are linked to Ishtar, the goddess of fertility and reproduction. As we all know, rabbits are associated with the fertility of spring because of their ability to produce many young. At some point in history, parents began telling their children that the Easter Rabbit, or Easter Bunny, bring Easter eggs.

The LAMB is an especially important Easter symbol in central and eastern European countries. It reminds us that Jesus was the Sacrificial Lamb (or as the “Lamb of God”) and relates His death and shed blood to that of the lamb sacrificed on the first Passover. (See Passover references in Exodus 12 through Exodus 13:1-16) Many people serve lamb as a part of their Easter feast.

HOT CROSS BUNS, first baked in England to be served on Good Friday, are not necessarily a Christian tradition even though there is a cross of icing on the top. Some people have suggested the connection to the ancient, pagan sacramental cakes eaten by Anglo-Saxons in honor of their goddess “Eastore.”

The custom of wearing NEW CLOTHES for Easter is common among many Christians. It may have originated from the old practice of newly baptized Christians wearing new white clothes for the Easter celebration. Like many other Easter symbols, new clothes represent the new life offered through the death and Resurrection of Jesus. Easter promenades of people in new clothes are a tradition in many European towns and villages.

Like all other holidays, festivals and feasts throughout the calendar year, customs and traditions may vary according to locality and the history of the people. However, one thing is certain, to Christians (believers in Jesus Christ); Easter marks the most Holy Day (beginning with Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday) in the calendar year. It is on this day that we remember the blood sacrifice that Jesus made for the forgiveness of our sins and His Resurrection from the grave. By the power of the Holy Spirit, He arose from the dead and now lives at the right hand of the Father. And, it is by this same power that we can receive the gift God offers each one of us through His Son, Jesus Christ…the gift of eternal life and the forgiveness of our sins.

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