Easter primarily is the celebration of Jesus' triumph over death and mankind's hope for eternal life. Some of the main features behind the original Easter story are Jesus' execution, his burial and most significantly his rising from death. Christians believe that according to the Scripture, Jesus came back to life three days after his death on the cross, which is observed through the Good Friday, always the Friday before Easter. Through his death, burial and resurrection it is believed that Jesus paid the penalty for his sins and obtained eternal life for all who believe in him.
Although it is the celebration of the same truth in history, the methods of celebration differ quiet a bit. In USA the name of this Holy Day is Easter. It is derived from the pagan goddess of dawn, "Eostre". Since Eostre was a pagan goddess, in some churches it is considered inappropriate to refer to this Holy Day with the name of a pagan goddess. However, the word Easter is simply used to refer to this holiday only, with no connotation what so ever with the pagan goddess bared in mind. In most other languages including Greek, Easter is called Pascha, related to the Hebrew word Pesach, for Passover. This is because the early Christians linked this celebration to Passover.
Along Along with differences in names there are also differences in the ways this holiday is celebrated. If the holiday is being celebrated in the US, one can expect to see the famous Easter parades. Another famous tradition is of egg hunting for hidden eggs. This became known as the Easter Egg Roll, gaining popularity in the late 1800s. Children rolled eggs on the grounds of the US capitol the congress was not happy about this and outlawed the practice. In 1878, President Hayes and his wife Lucy invited children to roll eggs on the lawn of the White House itself, starting a tradition which still continues today. Another US tradition is the Easter Bunny, in many cultures it is viewed as the bunny as symbol of fertility. The reason behind accepting this view was that centuries ago, Pope Gregory I allowed people to keep pagan symbols such as eggs and bunny as long as they can be recast in Christian terms. In Greece the celebrations truly begin two months before Easter. They start with the festival called Apokria, in which a huge paper mache effigy of Judas is set on fire. The next Monday is called Clean or Ash Monday it is one of the most festive days of the year for the Greeks. Children and parents gather on the hills of Athens and the Greek countryside to fly kites and enjoy picnics and than Lent begins. Holy Thursday is the day when all Greek families prepare dyed red eggs. Tradition says that the Virgin Mother dyed eggs red to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and to celebrate life. This is a big part of the Easter Sunday. On Good Friday flags at homes and government buildings are set at half mast to mark the sorrowful day. Holy Saturday is filled with anticipation of Easter. People gather at town squares and churches and by 11 P.M. the Easter Services start. Large white candles are lit and are carried by everyone. At midnight the church bells ring and the priests announce Christos Anesti (Christ has risen) and fireworks are set off. The celebration continues on the Sunday with great Easter feasts.
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