The Days of Easter Lent is a forty-six day penitence season that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday, the day before Easter Sunday. It is symbolic of the forty days Jesus spent out in the wilderness before his ministry. Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, and gets its name from the practice of placing ashes on the foreheads of the faithful to remind them of the dust we all return to once we die. Palm Sunday is one week before Easter and celebrates Jesus' entry into Jerusalem. This begins the Holy Week. Maundy Thursday signifies the Last Supper of Jesus with his disciples. Good Friday represents the crucifixion, and Easter Sunday celebrates Jesus' resurrection and ascent to heaven. Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday are known as the Easter Triduum or Three Days. Holy Saturday, the day before Easter Sunday, is when some churches start their celebration of Easter very late in the evening at service called the Easter Vigil. All lights are extinguished, and a single flame is brought into the pulpit by the minister who takes his flame and lights all the other candles with it. In some churches, it is customary to share a meal after the lighting of the candles. Eastertide, or the season of Easter, starts on Easter Sunday and lasts until seven weeks later on the Days of Pentecost. Easter Sunday is usually celebrated with a sunrise service and highly festive music with brass instruments. The pulpit of the church is adorned with many Easter Lilies. Easter Sunday should be that Sunday that follows the first full moon after the first day of spring or the Vernal Equinox. More importantly, we celebrate these days to relive Jesus' last days: The Last Supper, The Cross, and His Resurrection into heaven. Is Easter Becoming too Commercialized Christmas is already commercialized. The stores have started decorating in October now and have "Christmas in July" sales. Easter, it seems, is starting to follow suit. The stores start placing displays right after Valentine's Day in February. Easter should be recognized as a Holy Day and the resurrection should be celebrated. Instead, we have stores open selling all kinds of items. It turns out we need a lot of different things to celebrate Easter. We need a new fancy outfit complete with a bonnet for the ladies. As for candy, we can munch on chocolate rabbits, jellybeans of all flavors, and eggs with creme, caramel, and our favorite candy bar flavor. They even have ready made Easter eggs for hanging on a tree. Some of these eggs can be quite expensive, but most are quite affordable. They can make a wonderful addition to your Easter decorations. Looking through the advertisements in the Sunday paper, stores have plenty of sales going on to coax customers into the store. Dresses and suits, Easter baskets, candy, electronics, DVD's, furniture, and even big screen televisions are all on sale. The highest priced basket was thirty dollars, but inside was a DVD, popcorn, candy, and a gift card. There was not one egg in sight in the whole basket. What happened to the simple basket of yesterday? The basket that had a chocolate bunny, some eggs, jellybeans, and maybe a stuffed rabbit and some of that green grass. Simplicity is often the best solution, but these days the baskets keep getting more expensive with each passing year. While all of these things are nice to have to celebrate Easter, everyone should also take time to remember what the holiday is really about. They should remember What it signifies and Who it represents. Here Comes the Easter Bunny and Lamb We see many representations of the coming holiday. While some are widely known, a few are not. Take a moment to see which ones you do know. Easter Bunny -- The hare is one of the most adorable and well known symbols of Easter. Children wait to catch a glimpse of him hopping to their house with a basket full of goodies. Easter Candles -- White candles are lit on Easter Sunday and for the next forty days to symbolize Jesus' return to life. They are usually extinguished on Ascension Day. Easter Lamb -- The meek creature represents the death of Jesus as a lamb was sacrificed on that first Passover. Hence, Jesus became known as the "Lamb of God." Easter Lily -- Gorgeous when blooming, this white flower represents purity and the resurrection of Christ. Immortality is symbolized by the trumpet shaped bulb. Hot Cross Buns -- Pastry baked in England and served as traditional breakfast on Good Friday. They are so named for the icing across the top of the bun, it reminds people of the crucifixion. If you kept a hot cross bun from one Good Friday to the next, it was thought that you would have good luck all year long. Whale -- Jonah himself spent three days in the belly of a whale before being spit out. Paralleling with the Easter story, Jesus spent three days in the tomb and rose on the third day. Sunrise Services -- A gathering filled with rites performed at the Vernal Equinox. People welcome the sun and its power to bring new life into the world. So how many did you know? I hope you learned a new one about this most wonderful holiday that comes in the spring, and be on the watch for the hare who will be bearing gifts. Easter Trees Easter trees became a tradition in the United States just after the Civil War. In Germany, the Ukraine, and Austria, the trees have been around longer. They would decorate evergreens with painted eggs. Eggs represent rebirth, renewal, and the resurrection. The tree has gained rising popularity since the book "The Egg Tree" was published. By Katherine Milhous, the book tells the story of a girl who finds her grandmother's old eggs hidden in the attic. She takes them outside and hangs them on the tree, and starts a wonderful new tradition in her family. People use many different and colorful decorations on these trees. There are hand-painted eggs, miniature baskets with eggs, miniature straw hats with flowers attached, and a lot of ribbon used to hang each piece on the tree. Generally speaking, most people use a Forsythia or Cherry tree because the branches are the perfect ornament holders due to their crookedness. Most of the eggs used have been blown out or had a pin inserted in one end. The yolk is then blown out and the shell painted. Packed away carefully, these fragile eggs can be used year after year. Germans extend their decorations from the trees out to their gardens. So if you get to travel in Germany during Easter, you will see the live trees and the gardens decorated with colorful eggs. In some of their institutions such as an elderly resting home, you can find their foyers decorated with eggs, rabbits, and a large tree with baskets all around. If you look hard enough, you might spot a rooster and hen too. If your tree is inside, make sure to decorate underneath as well. Place some rabbits and some egg baskets around the bottom of the tree. When the Easter Bunny comes, he will go fill the baskets with good surprises. You can also adorn your tree with other decorative pieces. Chickens, roosters, little baskets, and eggs are always great. Find some garland to help in the festive look. Use some garland made of small flowers or little rabbits. The sky is the limit. Most importantly, have fun with your children deciding what will go on your Easter tree. Easter Lilies The Bermuda Lily, with its large white blooms, symbolizes the pure new life that comes from the Resurrection of Christ. Because they are shaped like trumpets, the blooms are also symbolic of immortality. Church pulpits are often adorned with lilies at Easter to remember loved ones. In Roman mythology, the lily is associated with Juno, Queen of the Gods. When Juno was feeding Hercules one day, she dropped some portion of the milk and it fell to earth. Wherever the milk hit the ground, a gorgeous pure white lily would rise up. Bermuda Lilies were first located in Bermuda by Ms. Thomas Sargent in 1880. She brought them back with her to Philadelphia. Real Easter Lilies are found in Japan on the islands of Liuchiu Archipelago. They grow wild on the rocky coast. The beautiful flowers were first collected by Carl Thunberg in 1777 and sent to England around 1800. The bulbs found their way to the United States by 1930. The flowers bloom around Easter in early spring. You will find them in most Easter floral arrangements and in the church pulpits. A popular version of this flower is the Lavender Calla Lily Plant. Artists have for several centuries portrayed Gabriel the Angel as coming to the Virgin Mary with a spray of lilies to announce that she would be Jesus' mother. Sometimes known as the "White-robed Apostles of hope," lilies were seen growing in the Garden of Gethsemane after Jesus' agony on the cross. It is said that the lilies grew up where each drop of His sweat fell to the ground in his final hours. To keep them longer after Easter, you need to follow these suggestions. For the blooms to last longer, snip out the yellow anthers once the flower opens. Pick plants that only have 1-2 buds open. Don't place the plant in a hot window or in direct sunlight. Easter Eggs and Traditions The egg is the most well known symbol of fertility, new life, and the start of a new beginning. Some customs have been around for centuries. Each culture decorates their eggs according to the customs that have been handed down for centuries. In all cultures, it remains true that "All life comes from an egg." Eggs have been dyed and eaten in Persia, Greece, Rome and ancient Egypt. The egg is regarded as a representation of the universe and the continuation of life. In Germany, the eggs are pierced at the end and the yolk blown into a bowl. The now empty egg is dyed and hung from a tree as decoration. Armenians decorate their eggs with pictures of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and other religious icons. Austrians attach ferns and other plants to the egg. After they are boiled, the plants are removed and a white pattern is revealed on the shell. In England, boys and men would go out on Easter Eve and travel th town begging for eggs before performing an Easter play. Belgium believes that the Bells of Rome bring the Easter Bunny and the eggs together. Because all the bells are in Rome, they have the "Stille Zaterdag" or the Silent Saturday. Norwegians have an interesting way of celebrating Easter. After going skiing in the mountains or decorating eggs for the baskets, they turn to solving murders. All of the media have murder stories and the people tried to solve the mysteries. TV, books, even milk cartons have some sort of murder story that needs to be solved. Americans have a well known tradition as well. We travel to Washington DC to roll decorated wooden eggs on the lawn of the White House and then pretend the Easter Bunny hid them. Easter Candy The Delicacies of Easter Way back in the seventies, Easter was celebrated with a basket and some hidden eggs. Sure they had Marshmallow chicks and chocolate rabbits, but it was nothing like the delicacies of today. Today we have all colors of marshmallow chicks, all flavors of jellybeans, and all kinds of eggs to delight our taste buds. There are so many delicious candies to choose and try. Marshmallow candy used to be made mostly of small yellow chicks, now we have pink and yellow chick and blue rabbits. A nice bit of fluff in every bite, marshmallow candies have been popular for years. Jellybeans are a colorful decoration to any basket. The beans have also changed over the years. They used to be simple flavors like orange, lemon, lime, and cherry. Now you can have fruit flavored, sour, or a mixed flavor bean. All of these beans make your mouth water for more. Heavenly chocolate eggs are the cornerstone of Easter treats. There are chocolate eggs and rabbits that we remember from the good old days, but balancing that out is the caramel, creme, and peanut butter eggs. Chocolate rabbits are also a staple in the Easter candy department. There are hollow rabbits as well as rabbits filled with creme. Some of these are so huge you could never eat the whole thing in one sitting. Malted robin's eggs are make a tasty snack. The are just malted balls covered with a colorful shell. They are soft and crunchy at the same time which adds to their charm. How do you choose between so many scrumptious treats? Easter is a holiday like no other when it comes to wonderful treats. With so many to choose from, you won't be able to try them all before Easter is over. Sadly, you must wait until the next year. Designing Your Easter Egg Boil, Boil, Boil your eggs first. Did I mention boiling the eggs? If you don't, the yolks can become hard, dry and green-tinged. That makes for a very ugly egg, so boil them first. When coloring your egg, you can buy a coloring kit or make your own with food coloring. It depends on how adventurous you are and how much time you have. First, cover the table with plastic or paper so the dyes don't stain the wood. Don't forget you need one cup for each color, extra if you are planning on mixing colors together. After you paint the first coat, give the egg plenty of time to dry before adding a second coat or design to the egg. Empty egg cartons can be used for drying or a dish rack where you set plates out to dry. Paper towels and rubber gloves are optional, but they can help with getting less stain all over the table and the kids. After they are dry, apply design or second coat of color. If using design, find all kinds of different stamps or stencils, flowers, pieces of wire, leaves, pine cones, and lots of color. Make sure no two eggs are alike. The vibrant colors of the eggs symbolize the sunlight of spring. Make your eggs sparkle with glitter or other shiny beads. Some kids like to color or design on a piece of paper and then wrap the egg in the paper. It is really up to your own imagination as to what you can do with your egg. After you get them designed, let them dry completely and then hang them on your tree or get them hid in preparation for Easter. Pack them away carefully for use with next year's fabulous creations.
Can Rabbits Really Lay Eggs Apparently, the Easter Bunny can. He brings baskets of eggs to all the good little children. Along with the basket, Mr. Bunny adds some other candy and gifts for the special child. There is also a colorful assortment of eggs -- Red, Blue, Green, Yellow, Speckled, Chocolate, Creme-Filled, Marbled, and Rainbow. How did this whole story start? What made the Easter bunny keep laying eggs? How does the hare fit into the story at all? According to ancient legend, the Easter Bunny was once a large beautiful bird that belonged to Eostre, a goddess. She was symbolic of spring and fertility, and a festival was celebrated on the Vernal Equinox in her honor. Eostre decided one day to change her beloved bird into a hare. Because the hare is still a bird at heart, he continues to lay eggs in a nest. Hares and rabbits also serve as representations of abundant new life in the season of spring. It is actually a hare that symbolizes Easter. Jakob Grimm made a correlation in 1835. He made a connection between Osterhase (Easter Bunny) and Easter Eggs to the goddess Eostre. Critics say that there is a etymological relation between the words Eostre and the word for East. They also say it could mean something other than the goddess herself. So it is anybody's guess. Some stories also say the hare is a representation of fertility. Religions from around the world associate the rabbit with the moon because of human and lunar rhythms. There are other bunnies just as famous as the Easter Bunny such as Brer Rabbit and the Briar Patch, Peter Rabbit who was created by Beatrix Potter, Bugs Bunny created in the late 1930's, and Peter Cottontail which was written in the 1950's. None of these are as well known or eagerly awaited for each Easter morning. Using Leftover Eggs from Easter Leftover eggs can be numerous at my house, because we usually overshoot how many we really need. If you have the same problem, here are some suggestions for those unused eggs: Hard boiled eggs -- Shell the egg and eat it. Nothing like a good boiled egg with a little pepper on it. Egg Salad -- Just add some mustard, mayonnaise and some dill and you have a wonderful sandwich spread. Deviled Eggs -- Shell the eggs, take out the yolks and mix with some mustard powder, mayonnaise, and salt and pepper. Take the mixture and spoon back into one half of an egg white. Sprinkle some paprika decoratively on top. You can also change the filling and use avocado or seafood. Salads -- Shell the eggs and dice up both yellow and white parts to make a nice garnish. Potato Salad -- This will use up many more eggs that are left. Mix in some potatoes, mustard, relish, and onion for a great treat. Meatloaf -- Place the hard boiled egg in the center of the meatloaf for a big surprise or chop up the leftover eggs and add to the meatloaf mixture. Chip Dip -- Cream leftover eggs, about 7-8, with cream cheese in a blender. Add onions, salsa, or chives for a great tasting dip. Hot Pickled eggs -- Use the liquid from jar of jalapeņos or other peppers. Place the eggs in the juice and let set for a week. Asparagus -- This tasty vegetable is sometimes served with butter and diced egg. Casseroles -- Mix leftover eggs with mashed potatoes, cheese, butter and chives. Also, take some chicken, water chestnuts, and bamboo shoots and add in a few eggs. Both will give you a scrumptious dinner that is easy to make. Leftover eggs can be used in a number of ways. Take your culinary skills and go from there. Easter on the White House Lawn An annual family event, kids go hunting for eggs hidden all over the White House Grounds. Then they get to race the colorful wooden eggs on the White House Lawn from one end of Pennsylvania Avenue to the other end. Rutherford B. Hayes first opened the grounds to local children in 1878. Since then, all Presidents invite children to the egg rolling festivities each Easter. The Easter Bunny will also make an appearance, but is never allowed to be seen without his head. One of the White House Staff dresses up each year as the bunny. Ursula Meese, wife of President Reagan's Attorney General Edwin Meese, enjoyed the job for six years. She was known as the "Meester Bunny." Kids can also enjoy face painting, egg coloring, magicians, music, and reading corners. At each of th corners, storytelling is done by authors of popular children's books, Cabinet and Senior Administration members, and athletes. Easter festivities are usually held from 8AM-2PM at the White Housem, and the National Park Service also distributes free tickets. As long as you have a seven year old or younger with your group, you can get a maximum of five tickets. Tickets are first come, first served and can also be gotten from the Ellipse Visitor Pavilion at the Southwest corner of 15th and E Streets. If you look carefully at some of the eggs, you will notice an egg from every state in the nation. This tradition started in 1994. The American Egg Board handles all the eggs and gets them ready for the big day. When the Easter Egg Roll has to be canceled due to inclement weather, it can be relocated to the National Zoo or the Capitol building. The longest they went without having a egg roll was during World War II. President Eisenhower brought back the tradition in 1953 and another generation was able to participate in the Easter tradition. Easter Quiz What holiday is always celebrated the first Sunday following the full moon that appears near the Spring Equinox? Germany originated the legend of what bunny? The wooden eggs used at the White House Egg Roll are in honor of what day? The metamorphosis of the butterfly represents eternal life and is seen with which holiday? More than 1 billion eggs are hunted all over the United States on this holiday. Holiday at the end of the Lenten season and begins on Ash Wednesday and covers forty-six days. Which holiday is known as Ostern in German, Isuta in Japenese, and Eseta in Samoan? Kids decorate hard boiled eggs in preparation for what holiday? Stores sell jelly beans, chocolate bunnies, marshmallow candy, and creme eggs for this holiday. Eggs are hidden by the bunny over Saturday night so the kids can find them the next day which is this holiday. Finnish people enjoy a dish called Mammi on this holiday. It is the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. There used to be just marshmallow chicks, now we have eggs and rabbits for this holiday as well. This holiday is named after the goddess, Eostre, who changed her beloved bird into a hare. The hare being a bird at heart still lay eggs in his nest. The beautiful white lily is supposed to bloom around this holiday. Trees decorated with eggs became a tradition in America just after the Civil War. Palm Sunday is one week before this holiday. You must boil the egg you are going to paint for this holiday. "The Egg Tree" written by Katherine Milhous explained the tradition of decorating trees with eggs was about this holiday. If you answered Easter to all of these, you are way ahead of the rest of the bunnies coming down the trail. Easter Basket Ideas What does one place in Easter baskets for different age groups? Does it have to be candy and chocolate rabbits? Does it have to eggs and jellybeans? According to modern times, the answer is No. Taking a poll of people is always interesting because you never know how it will turn out. Here are some of the answers received when I asked "What do you place in an Easter basket?" Books -- Some kids and adults love to read. Why not encourage them by getting a favorite novel? CD's and DVD's -- These fit nicely in baskets and will last longer than the chocolate eggs. Movie tickets -- So you yourself can have a nice quiet Easter at home. Let the kids go out and paint the town. Toiletries -- Shampoo, Soap, Deodorant, and Lotions all make a great smelling basket and loved one. Candles and Bubble Bath -- For the special lady to sit back and relax on Easter night. Money -- This is always a great idea according to my son. Clothes -- Bulky, but you can always place the items in a box underneath the basket. Socks and Booties -- These help keep the feet toasty warm on the winter nights. Candy -- Use this sparingly as filler between the items in the basket. You must also include at least one chocolate rabbit. Video Games -- These also fit in the baskets and can help the kids spend what would be a boring afternoon waiting for Easter dinner to be done to have loads of fun instead. Jewelry -- My favorite and always a winning idea. Crafts and Fabric -- For the artsy person in your life, they will have several idea what to do with it the second they see it. Disposable Cameras -- For taking pictures, and most importantly, to make some lasting memories. Bible -- Perhaps the most needed thing, so you can read the Easter story to the kids. Oodles of ideas, but you only have one small basket. Choices are quite hard to make sometimes. Easter Around the Globe In America, we have the Easter Bunny, Easter tree, all the candy and the eggs. What about other nations? Do they celebrate Easter too? Scotland children hard boil eggs and paint them on Easter Saturday. On Easter Sunday, they take the eggs to the top of a tall hill and have a race to see whose egg would get to the bottom first. Hungarian kids trade hard boiled eggs and then see who can be the first to throw a coin into the egg. It must stay in the egg and not just chip off the side of the shell. Pennies and dimes work the best. Bulgarians crack eggs after midnight on Easter Sunday. The first one is cracked against the church wall, then everyone chooses their own egg. Each egg is cracked against another person's egg and the one left with an unbroken egg will receive a year of good luck. The Greeks have a unique tradition. Everyone gathers at the midnight service and all the lights in the church are turned off. A priest comes in the church doors with a lighted candle and goes to the front pew and lights one person's candle. In turn, the one candle lights the rest of the candles in the church. This represents the Light of the Resurrection and everyone receives it. In Poland, the Easter basket is the highlight of the day. The older family members make them for the younger ones. They are filled with Easter eggs, homemade bread, ham, butter lamb, and Polish sausages. The Finnish greet their friend and family by whisking them with small willow twigs. This is done to wish them luck in the following year. Everyone had a turn and then on Easter Sunday, they would exchange eggs, candies, or money to repay the favor. There are many more traditions, but they are all done to honor the resurrection of Christ and celebrate his return to heaven.
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