Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

April 18, 2014

Easter traditions date back centuries

TAHLEQUAH — Some Christians may lament a partial shift of focus, but a Christian holy day - perhaps the most holy of all – is this Sunday, and it will be marked with celebrations all around the world.

The Christian holiday of Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus. For centuries, the observant have fasted, reflected or done penance in the weeks leading to the holiday. But today, many also associate the holiday with the Easter bunny, candy, and kites. In 2013, Americans spent $2.1 billion on Easter candy.

There are many celebrations planned in Tahlequah during the weekend, many involving Easter egg hunts for children.

“A lot of our families hand out Easter baskets, and that is all right,” said Buddy Hunt, pastor for the First Baptist Church of Tahlequah. “But we also remember that Easter is truly about the resurrection, and the new birth we have in Jesus Christ, and that this new birth would not be possible without the resurrection.”

Though the western world shuts down for Christmas, Easter could be called the most important holiday on the Christian calendar.

“I would say Easter is the most significant day,” Hunt said. “Because without the resurrection, we wouldn’t have a savior. Jesus died and rose from the grave, which separates him from the other great leaders.”

Shana Dry, educational ministries director at the First United Methodist Church, also said Easter is of paramount significance.

“For me, Easter means a renewal,” Dry said. “It is a new beginning, where you are born again into a life where you are completely wrapped in love and forgiveness.”

Another indication of the holiday’s importance is attendance at services. Even non-observant Christians make a point of getting to church on Easter.

While pews are packed on Easter, many local churches choose to forego their evening services.

“That is so everyone can spend time with their families,” Hunt said. “After church, I have invited my extended family to an afternoon picnic. It will be a chance to relax and visit. Hopefully the rain will hold off.”

Dry will also have family in town.

“My mother will come in, and we are planning a big celebration lunch with ham and turkey after church,” she said. “Then we plan to put on Easter egg hunts for the children.”

The holiday falls each year on a Sunday because, unlike Christmas, Easter is a “moveable feast,” established by the First Council of Nicaea in 325. On the Gregorian Calendar, it is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal equinox. Eastern Orthodox churches use the Julian calendar to calculate the date of Easter, resulting in a celebration one to two weeks after the western observance.

Today’s icons of western Easter - a bunny and colored eggs - date to pagan traditions, which were often incorporated into Christian observances by the Roman church to attract converts.

The Easter bunny originated with the Saxon festival celebrating the goddess Eostre, whose symbol was a rabbit. The exchange of eggs during spring is a custom dating back millennia. The egg was a common symbol of birth in many early cultures. Eggshells were tinted by boiling them with leaves or flower petals.

For many Christians, the observation of Easter begins with Lent, a span of 40 days leading to Easter. It represents the 40 days Jesus fasted in the wilderness before starting his ministry. The number 40 holds further biblical significance, including Moses’ 40 days on Mount Sinai, the 40 years of wandering in the desert by the Hebrews and Jesus’ 40 hours in the tomb.

Christians believe Jesus withstood a series of temptations by the devil while in the wilderness, and many modern Christians choose a worldly convenience or pleasure to forgo when observing the Lenten season.

In earlier times, and among modern Christians choosing a more solemn observance, Lent might involve fasting and celibacy. The Tuesday before Lent was often a day of feasting and merriment, and is celebrated today as Mardi Gras.

The week of Easter is the Holy Week. Holy Thursday observes the Last Supper; Good Friday marks the crucifixion; and Holy Saturday celebrates Jesus’ transition between the crucifixion and resurrection.


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Do you think "blue laws" related to Sunday alcohol sales in Oklahoma should be relaxed? Choose the option that most closely reflects your opinion.

Alcoholic drinks should be sold Sundays in restaurants and bars, and liquor stores should be open.
Alcoholic drinks should be sold Sundays in restaurants and bars only; liquor stores should stay closed.
Liquor stores should be open Sundays, but drinks should not be served anywhere on Sundays.
The law should remain as it is now; liquor stores should be closed, and drinks should be served on Sundays according to county option.
No alcohol should be sold or served publicly on Sundays.
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