Easter, the most important holiday of the Christian Church, celebrates the resurrection of Jesus. The holiday was established in the second century. In 325, the council of Nicea decided that Easter would be celebrated on the Sunday which follows the first full moon after the spring equinox (between March 21 and April 25). We celebrate Easter on Sunday because it is the day of the week when Jesus rose from the dead. It’s likely that the religious celebration replaced a pagan festival.
The origin of the word, “EASTER”, is not clear. Bede, an early English historian (672-735), connected Easter to Eostre, an Anglo-Saxson spring goddess and whose symbols were the hare and the egg.
People who are not Christians usually send cards and flowers, fill Easter baskets with chocolate and candy, decorate eggs, buy toy chicks and rabbits. But for Czech people, a whip, usually made from young willow branches, is the third symbol of Easter.
Christians also send cards and flowers, eat chocolate and feast to celebrate Easter, but they especially rejoice in Christ’s resurrection. Christ’s resurrection is the basis of the Christians experience. Most churches have a service at sunrise to remember the women’s early visit to Jesus tomb. Then there is another service later in the morning, which contains lots of singing. The mood is joyful as the priest says: “Christ is risen.“
Easter in the Czech Republic
There are a lot of traditions connected with Easter of the coming of spring. In the Czech Republic some of the oldest traditions are those connected with Easter eggs and Easter “birches”.
For a long time, Czech men and boy have given girls and women an -Easter birching-: a gentle slapping on the arms and shoulders and backs with a decorated bunch of birch sticks.
The right to give a birching begins at midnight on Sunday and continues Monday morning. Young men, later joined by children, go around in groups visiting the houses of neighbours and relatives.
The strength of waking nature is given to Man by these customs. It is also believed that the first “bircher” brings the home good luck, and so the housewife rewards him very well. Birchers get lots of food – meat, fruit, sweet holiday bread “mazanec” etc. – sticks of rosemary or sometimes money. However the most usual gift is one of decorated Easter eggs.
In folk culture, the Easter egg was a magical symbol of life and spring. The favourite colourt for eggs was red – the colour of blood and life. Easter egg decorations can thus be understood as a special, intimate, graphic form of Easter love poetry.
Easter in the Great Britain
Unlike the Czech Repulic, in Britain many Easter traditions have been forgotten, but there is still one that has survived.
Easter does not mean only Easter Sunday and Easter Monady, but Good Friday – the Friday before Easter Day – as well. In Britain, this day is connected with hot cross buns. In the old times, people used to eat them for breakfast on Good Friday, but nowadays they are eaten practically at anytime during the week before Easter.
Hot cross buns are sweet buns, containing dried fruit (like currants, sultanas and raisins) and spices. He baker, before he puts them into the oven, marks them with a cross to remind us of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on the first Friday in all the history of Good Fridays.
The buns are usually toasted and eaten hot with butter. They are crispy and warm and delicious…
Easter Sunday is a Chocolate Eating Day. Chocolate Easter eggs are sold many weeks before the actual holiday, in all imaginable kinds of wrapping. Easter eggs are distributed after breakfast, then some people go to church. Eggs, wrapped in coloured paper, are another symbol of new life and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Easter Monday is a day of a rest. People enjoy walking or travelling to the seaside. Londoners also watch the parade of horses and carriages in Regent´s Park or simply laze about.
What does Easter mean for an average English family?
- buying Easter cards and sending them to the relatives and friends,
- cleaning of house or flats,
- buying sweets for children (Easter bunnies, chocolate eggs),
- painting (or other ways of decoration) eggs,
- watching religious films on TV,
- Bank Holiday on Monady and Friday : very popular for sport (foot-ball matches, horse races)
- the beginning of spring…
Celebrate – slavit
Secular – světský
Candy – bonbón
Religious – náboženský
Resurrection – zmrtvýchvstání
Establish – zřídit, ustanovit
Decide – rozhodnout se
Equinox – rovnodennost
Rise – povstat
Likely – pravděpodobný
Replace – nahradit
Pagan – pohanský
Festival – svátek
Origin – původ
Whip – karabáč, mrskat
Willow branch – vrbová větev
Feast – hodovat
Service – (zde – bohoslužba)
Sunrise – úsvit
Tomb – hrobka
Contain – obsahovat, zahrnovat
Mood – nálada
Joyful – radostnýcustom – zvyk
Birch – březový proutek
Bunch – svazek
Stick – proutek
Neighbour – soused
Relatives – příbuzní
Refuse – odmítnout
Strength – síla
Fast – půst
Literature: Methodical list