I. The moral lessons given us by Jesus
Celebrating Easter, seeing the happy faces of people around, hearing the joyful announcements Christ is risen, and, on the whole, enjoining these God-blessed sunny spring days, let us pause for a moment and ponder on some of the moral lessons given us by Jesus.
We well know that Christianity is ethical through and through, but strange as it may seem, the moral teaching of Christ himself is not very circumstantial. On the contrary, He appears rather terse on these matters, and it is in His deeds, not words, that the larger part of His mission found its expression. As a person, with all His inclinations and intentions, He does not seem to be a determined moral reformer, not to speak of a revolutionary; and he was not in the least a scholar or a man of letters. He wrote nothing. He mowed quietly and slowly along the highways and among the villages of Galilee and Judea and spoke to people not about any intricate problems of human existence, or theology, or the mysteries of life and death, but about things which belonged to the realm of daily life; and the words he chose for that were the words of common men, not those of a professor of ethics.
He summed up His theology in an amazingly short and simple phrase God is love ; and meeting people He very often did not teach them, as He actually did from time to time, but offered them a ready sympathy and understanding, even to the degraded and the outcast. To them He spoke in the language of tolerance and benevolence, forgiveness and mercy. That was His love – and that was the beginning of the moral revolution that transformed the world.
II. When is the Easter?
The greatest Christian festival of the year is Easter. It is either in March or in April, and millions of people joyously observe Christ #8217;s resurrection. This holy day never comes before March 22 or after April 25.
When is an Easter? That, of course, is celebrated on the first Sunday after the paschal moon, which is the first full moon that occurs on or next after the vernal equinox, March, 21st. So all you need to do is look at the sky? Afraid not. For the moon in question is not the real moon, but a hypothetical moon. This one goes round the earth one month in 29 days, the next in 30 days, though with certain modifications to make the date of both the real and fictional full moons coincide as nearly as possible. It yields a date for Easter that can be as early as March 22nd and as late as April 25th. Today, Easters variability suits antiquarians, and the makers of pocket diaries, many of which devote a Full page to the calculation of Easter in perpetuity. But, nearly 1,700 years on, it does not suit those in (mostly European) countries such as Britain and Germany where both Good Friday and Easter Monday are public holidays. Early Easters are too cold to enjoy. Late Easters are jammed up against the May Day public holiday.
Passion Sunday or Care Sunday two Sundays before Easter, is still known as Carling Sunday in parts of the north of England. Carlings are small dried peas, which are soaked in water overnight and then fried in an almost dry pan – when they start to burst they are ready. Greengrocers sell them, pubs serve them, and people eat them at home in a basin with a small piece of butter and plenty of pepper and salt. There seems to be no good reason, apart from the strength of the tradition, why they are eaten on this day.
Palm Sunday is the Sunday before Easter; for people near Marlborough in Wiltshire it meant following a long-established custom in which willow hazel sprays – representing palm – were carried up Martinsell Hill.
Maundy Thursday is the Thursday before Easter: the #8216;royal Maundy #8217; describes the gift which for the last five hundred ears or so has been given out by the sovereign on Maundy Thursday to as many men and woman as there are years in his or her age. Once it was clothing which was given out, now it is a sum of money; on odd – numbered years the ceremony usually takes place at Westminster Abbey, in even – numbered ones at a church or cathedral elsewhere in the country – though 1989 seems to have been an exception, for the distribution took place at Birmingham Cathedral in honor of the centenary of the city #8217;s incorporation.
On Good Friday, the day of the crucifixion, hot cross buns are always eaten as a sign of remembrance, and in some baker #8217;s shops and supermarkets they are on sale for many weeks before. It is a nationwide tradition, though hot cross buns were unknown in some places – Bath, for example – until the twentieth century. The buns may in fact pre – date Christianity, since bread consecrated to the Roman gods was marked with lines intersecting at right angels.
People celebrate the holiday according to the beliefs and their religious denominations. Christians commemorate Good Friday as the day that Jesus Christ died and Easter Sunday as the day that He was resurrected. Protestant settlers brought the custom of a sunrise service, a religious gathering at dawn, to the United States.
Today on Easter Sunday, children wake up to find that the Easter Bunny has left them baskets of candy. He has also hidden the eggs that they decorated earlier that week. Children hunt for the eggs all around the house. Neighborhoods and organizations hold Easter egg hunts, and the child who finds the most eggs wins a prize.
In England, children rolled eggs down hills on Easter morning, a game which has been connected to the rolling away of the rock from Jesus Christ #8217;s tomb when He was resurrected. British settlers brought this custom to the New World.
One unusual Easter Sunday tradition can be seen at Radley, near Oxford, where parishioners #8216;clip #8217; or embrace their church – they join hands and make a human chain round it. It is Easter Monday, however, which sees a veritable wealth of traditional celebrations throughout the country: to name bat #8217; a few, there is Morris dancing in many tows, including a big display at Thaxted in Essex; orange rolling, perhaps a descendant of egg roiling, which takes place on Dunstable Downs in Bedfordshire; and for perhaps eight hundred years or more there has been a distribution of food at the Kent village of Biddenden, ten miles from Ashford.
Then there is Leicestershire #8217;s famous hare – pie scramble and bottle – kicking which also takes place on Easter Monday; and another custom kept up in many parts of England and Wales and called #8216;lifting #8217; or #8216;heaving #8217; was taken by some to symbolize Christ #8217;s resurrection. On Easter Monday the men lifted any woman they could find, and the women reciprocated the following day; the person was taken by the four limbs and lifted three times to shoulder height. When objections were made that this was #8216;a rude, indecent and dangerous diversion #8217; a chair bedecked with ribbons and flowers was used instead – it was lifted with its victim, turned three times, and put down.
The Easter parade
The origin of this very picturesque traditional occasion, known affectionately as Easter Parade and starting at 3 o #8217;clock in the afternoon of Easter Sunday, is not as remote, or mysterious, as many of the traditions and customs of England; there is no religious, or superstitious significance attached to it whatsoever.
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