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Opinion

March 30, 2013

Easter brings spirit of renewal

Easter, in which Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, seems particularly a time of renewal this year with the Catholic Church’s selection of a new pope.

Even as we wonder what changes Francis I will usher in and the effect his papacy will have on the world in general, Christians of all denominations will observe the cherished holiday in many different ways.

The name Easter actually predates the time of Jesus, back to Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring, or perhaps to Eostur, the Norse word for the spring season. The pagan entities were associated with spring, rebirth and reproduction.

Mentioned nowhere in the Bible — other than a faulty translation in the King James version of the Greek word, Pasha, which refers to Passover — since 325 A.D., Easter has been observed on the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the Vernal Equinox.

As Christianity gained converts throughout the known world, it was natural that it would embrace and modify Jewish and pagan practices that included renewal, which correlated with the resurrection of Jesus.

As for the more-secular aspects of the holiday, the Easter Bunny apparently made his or her debut in 16th century Germany, where people believed the bunny laid red eggs on Holy Thursday and many-colored eggs on the night before Easter Sunday.

Regarding eggs as a symbol of fertility and renewal has been around since ancient times. Associated with spring festivals, they were decorated and painted by the Chinese, Romans and Persians, among other cultures, and were used in religious rituals in Babylonia and Egypt.

Today’s Easter baskets are thought to be a vestige of the Jewish practice of bringing the first crops of the spring as a gift to the Temple in Jerusalem and the custom of early Catholics to bring Easter dinner to mass to be blessed by the priests.

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