Are you ready for egg hunts and chocolate Easter bunnies? Well, Easter Sunday is almost here!
Earlier in the week, our Jewish friends started celebrating Passover. This week-long festival will end on the evening of Tuesday, April 18.
While certainly a time for families to get together, did you know that both festivals are rich in history, traditions and religious significance?
Passover: What's The Story?
The story of Passover begins during the reign of the Pharaohs. Jews from the Holy Land were taken to Egypt and made to work long and hard, building pyramids. They prayed for freedom and in return, God commanded Moses to lead the Jews back to their Holy Land.
It is believed that God sent upon Egypt a series of ten devastating plagues that destroyed the crops and killed their livestock. The final tenth plague killed all the first borns of the Egyptians but passed over the homes of Jews -- hence the festival is named Passover, or Pesach in Hebrew.
The Israelites left in such a hurry that the bread they baked as provisions for the way did not have time to rise. This is the tradition behind "Matza" or flat crispy bread that is eaten during this festival. Passover is celebrated for seven days (eight days in some parts of the world), with the highlight being a family feast known as "Seder". The meal is followed by the ritual reading of the Hagadah, the Jewish holy text that describes the exodus.
Origin of Easter
Easter Sunday immediately follows the Jewish Passover festival. It marks the end of Lent, a period of fasting, prayer and repentance.
It is believed that Jesus, a Jew, arrived in Jerusalem to celebrate Passover with his 12 disciples. At the Passover meal (the Last Supper), Jesus predicts his death at the hands of one of his disciples. Judas betrays Jesus to the Romans who crucify him on charges of opposing the state. His death is observed on Good Friday and his resurrection on the third day after his death marked as Easter Sunday. Christians everywhere attend early morning services in their churches.
But, Why Eggs And Bunnies?
It is said Easter got its name after Eostre, a pagan goddess of spring and fertility in ancient times. Before Christianity took root in Europe, the locals worshipped forces of nature. When early missionaries converted these people to Christianity, they absorbed some of the pagan traditions. Eggs and rabbits, both symbols of Eostre, became part of Easter.
And aren't we glad, for we cannot imagine Easter without bunny rabbits, egg hunts and egg rolls! Happy Easter! Happy Passover or Pesach Same'ach, as they say in Hebrew!
And here's a video on Passover!