My knowledge of Easter was poor. All I really knew was that it was a celebration of Jesus’ life and resurrection and that we have a family get together with a huge Christmas style roast and eat tons of chocolate eggs on the Sunday.
Every Good Friday we have lunch at my Nan’s house. She’s a strong practising Catholic so this year, as we spent the afternoon cooking, I asked her to explain it all to me a little more in depth.
I’m well aware we were taught about it all at school. My parents christened my brother and I but left it as our choice as we grew up whether we wanted to practice our religion. We went to a Church of England school where in each assembly we would sing hymns and say prayers. The head teacher would recite stories from the bible to teach us about live’s values but it was never forced upon us to practise religion or go to church weekly. Sadly, amongst my friends it just wasn’t ‘cool’.
I sat in my Nan’s kitchen last Friday embarrassed that I didn’t know the full details of Easter. All I knew was the primary school version.
Religion has become more relevant to me in the past year as I’ve attended a C of E wedding and a Catholic funeral. There’s something so magical about the tradition and history of why we celebrate Marriage or Death in a Church. But practising Christianity so loosely, I’m worried that none of these traditions and beliefs are being continued with positivity and enthusiasm amongst my generation.
Family values are really important to us. My Mum comes from a large family and we celebrate each Christmas Eve and Good Friday at my Nan’s house with all the Aunts, Uncles and Cousins. Spending this time together has always meant more to us at Christmas than presents and at Easter than chocolate & bunnies. However, since the higher significance of events I’ve recently attended in Church, it has been important to me to understand what it all really means.
I really haven’t thought in depth about the Christian festivals since school.
Even though my Nan is such a strong practicing Christian, religion is something she’s always stressed to be what YOU believe in. She’s always enthusiastic to share her thoughts, stories and religious experiences with us, but never forced it upon us to practice religion in the same way she does.
Good Friday was a nice time to sit and talk about what Easter is a celebration of and think more seriously about what parts I believe in.
It all begins at Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake Day as most call it. This is the day worshippers used up all their rich foods, including eggs, milk and sugar, before they began their fast during Lent.
Ash Wednesday is the day following Shrove Tuesday, the day considered for worshippers to cleanse the soul by fasting before Lent begins.
Lent is treated as a period of reflection and a time for fasting from specific food and festivities. It’s about spiritual discipline and most believers tend to give up something to “purify” their bodies.
‘Holy Week’ is the week leading up to Easter, which Christians take time to remember the last week of Jesus’s life. Starting from the day he entered Jerusalem – Palm Sunday, until Maundy Thursday which was the day of the ‘Last Supper’.
Good Friday is the beginning of ‘Easter Weekend’. Christians believe Jesus was crucified on Good Friday and rose again three days later.
At Easter people eat hot cross buns. The cross on the top represents the crucifixion and they are traditionally eaten on Good Friday as a celebration of the end of Lent.
Holy Saturday is a quiet day of ‘grief’ where Christians prepare for Easter Sunday.
Easter Sunday is when Jesus rose from the dead, usually called ‘the Resurrection’. It marks the end of lent and people traditionally have a big dinner like at Christmas as a celebration of life. Chocolate eggs are exchanged and are seen as a symbol of Spring, a celebration of rebirth after the coldness and ‘death’ during winter.
After chocolate eggs came the Easter Bunny. Rabbits are always associated with heavy breeding and tend to give birth to large litters of bunnies in early spring.
Children believe that the Easter Bunny lays and hides baskets of chocolate, sweets and sometimes toys around the garden the night before Easter Sunday – much like Father Christmas delivers gifts on Christmas Eve.
These ‘new’ traditions are far from religious, they’re just some of the things we aimlessly share on social media – like ‘Pancake Day’ they all have a meaning and it’s important that we know the stories behind each day of Easter to pass on.
I like to take small amounts of what was shared in the Bible and mix it up with some Scientifics and a little bit of Astrology. I believe there is a god but can’t quite get my head around some of it’s farfetched explanations to the beginning of life. But there has to be a reason we all celebrate Christmas and Easter at certain times of the year, right? I felt the need to look into Easter more because it doesn’t have a fixed date. It always falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon of the Spring Equinox. This alone makes it relevant to my recent higher interest in spiritualism and astrology.
My schedule this year meant I had to work Christmas Eve and Easter Sunday. This is something I’ll definitely fix next year. After a rocky start to the new year my 88 year old Nan is going strong and still here to share her knowledge and experiences with me. But she won’t be forever. Christmas and Easter are extremely special times we all spend together and it’s definitely one of my higher priorities to spend more time with family this year. We might not go to church every Sunday but to me this is what Christmas and Easter are all about.
My friends in America all go to church regularly, it’s an excuse for them all to get together and have a good time. They’re really celebrating Easter for what it is. The resurrection of Christ. Sadly, all our local community think is that it’s the 1st bank holiday of the year. And just like at Christmas when some forget why we exchange presents, it’s nice to sit and reflect about all the things we are thankful for. So even though I had to work Easter this year, I’m happy that I found the time to cook and have lunch with my Nan Good Friday. I sat with her and talked in depth about Lent, The Holy Week and Easter Weekend and that made her happy.
I also had lunch with my cousins Easter Monday. Now, Easter Monday might not have any religious significance but these days if you’re using an extra day off work to spend time with family, eat good food and laugh, to me that makes Easter worth celebrating.