Easter origins

Although Easter is a Christian holiday that celebrates the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the celebration traces has its roots in both ancient Christianity and pagan culture. Which begs the question of how considering that ancient Christians were against the pagans.

Easter! Was it a pagan holiday? Has it always been a Christian holiday? Do we actually know what Easter means? Do we know its true origins, has it changed as it passed over time, who even decides which dates it is observed?

Most and if not most a good number of us can’t answer those questions, we take the pleasures it brings along and celebrate it in different ways.

In the true Kenyan fashion, Easter is known as the long weekend marked off on the calendar as time to travel and spend with family and friends. Some celebrate it at church, some spend time with family, some take it as a long and needed weekend away from the stresses of work.

The Subaru boys see it as an opportunity to claim ownership of other peoples’ girlfriends hidden in veneer of a road trip to Naivasha or as the say “Vasha” and for some ladies coincidentally it becomes the ideal time to go and say a long due hello to a distant relative, somewhere in remote Kenya where there’ll be no cell service for the weekend.

Different people will choose to celebrate Easter differently as they please and with the annual break a few days away, here’s some knowledge about Easter and its origins and the traditions you can share over dinner table this weekend if you have the stomach for it.

The word Easter was derived from “Eostre”, a festival named after and made to celebrate the Anglo-saxon goddess of spring and fertility to celebrate the beginning of spring. Of course this would be an impossible creation of Africa owing to the fact most parts of the continent do not experience the four weather cycles which are commonplace in Europe.

Read also: The call for forty days of fasting

The festival was meant to celebrate the beginning of spring and the rebirth of nature which is symbolic to Jesus Christ’s resurrection. The naming of the festival has been controversial following that of a pagan festival especially since Christianity was condemning and combating all forms of paganism.

Playing a part in controversy too has been the dates and the timings of Easter. The particular time period of the pagan festival fell around the same time as the Christians celebrated Easter and the Jews celebrated their equal, which is the Passover or as they call it “Pascha”.

The controversies led to differences between two fronts and they were known as the “Paschal” controversies. They were all solved in the 8th century by the Council of Nicaea. They concluded that Easter falls in between 22nd March and 25th April but ruled out specific date.

Fast forward to present day, Easter is celebrated by Christians around the world with church services, family gatherings, and various traditions such as Easter eggs, Easter bunnies, and Easter baskets.

In the religious front, Easter is celebrated by marking the important events leading to Jesus Christ’s crucifixion. The holiday is preceded by a 40-day period of fasting, penance and prayer known as lent. It’s followed by the week before Easter, which is known as the Holy Week.

The week begins on Palm Sunday marking Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem, Spy Wednesday on which the betrayal of Jesus is mourned, The Last Supper and Good Friday which commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus. Easter Monday marks Jesus Christ’s resurrection and marks the end of Easter in the religious aspect.

Easter has traditions that were picked along the way. Some are Easter eggs and bunnies.

Easter eggs were a result of the church prohibiting the eating of eggs during the holy week however the chickens’ didn’t get the memo and they still laid eggs.

The eggs laid in the period were considered “holy week eggs”, they were well decorated and painted. The eggs were a symbol of rebirth and new life just as Jesus rose from the tomb. Easter eggs are a common practice in present day Easter traditions.

The Easter bunnies came as a result of the pagan “Eostre” festival. Rabbits and Hares were for long a symbol of spring season and fertility. The association between the pagan festival and Easter led to the adoption of Easter bunnies as a tradition in modern day Easter practices.

That and other traditions like the white lily that symbolize purity, Easter baskets which are characterized by goodies and many more.

If your Easter is an egg, a bunny, a lilly or just a cold beer and nyama choma, have a lovely one.

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