The Customs Of Easter
All the traditions of Easter,
from the eggs and rabbits to the hymns and legends, blend together to make
this wonderful holiday a time of joy and celebratin. We celebrate Easter
with singing and praises to God because we remember that Jesus Christ is
alive. He lives today to give each person new life and hope. This is the
truth of Easter.
Early Christians living in the first hundred years after
the Resurrection called the week before Easter "White Week." They believed
that this was an especially good time to be baptized and they wore new,
white clothes as a sign of their new life.
Two hundred years later, the
emperor Constantine, too, saw clothing as a way to express a new life in
Christ. In honor of the Resurrection, he ordered his council to dress up
in their most elegant robes and march through the streets of Rome on
Later in European countries, people came to believe that a new
piece of clothing worn on Easter Sunday would bring good luck all year
long. As people walked to and from church in their new clothes, they
visited and admired one another. Soon this simple Easter walk became a
parade, an event which everyone looked forward to all during the cold,
dark winter months.
One of the most famous Easter parades today takes
place along Fifth Avenue in New York City. It began as a casual stroll
home from church, but in the early 1900s, it became a great fashion
parade. Fancy hats decorated with flowers, ribbons, and even birds in
nests are especially popular in New York's Easter parade.
Foot washing is
one of the lesser-known customs of the Easter season, but perhaps is one
of the most important. At the time of Christ, people wore sandals and
walked many miles on dusty roads. It was a sign of courtesy and respect
for a servant to gently wash the feet of guests when they arrived.
The night before he was crucified, Jesus took a basin of water and a towel,
and washed the feet of each of his disciples. Christ was showing his
followers that he was their servant, and that he respected them. Christ
knew he was leaving the disciples to start his church, and he was also
showing them that in order to be good leaders, they must both show respect
to their followers and also be willing to serve them.
In medieval times,
kings and lords followed Christ's example by washing the feet of twelve of
the poorest men in their kingdoms on the Thursday before Easter. Later, in
England, it became the custom of the kings and queens to wash the feet of
as many poor people as they were years old. Queen Elizabeth still carries
on this custom today.
Making an Easter tree is an old custom in Holland,
Germany, France, and Switzerland. In the days before Easter, bare branches
are brought into European houses and mounted in pots filled with earth.
Children busily hollow out eggshells by poking small holes in the ends of
their 'eggs' and draining the liquid. They use ribbons and dyes to
decorate their eggs, and then hang them on the bare branches.
decorated Easter tree reminds a family of Christ's Resurrection from death
because the eggs are a symbol of life adorning the dry branches which
symbolize death.German and Dutch families brought the custom of the
Easter tree to the United States.
Games involving eggs have long been
enjoyed in many parts of the world at Eastertime.
In England, eggs are
placed along a racetrack and children race to gather the most eggs in a
set length of time. This game is also played in Germany's Black Forest,
but there, the contestants ride on horseback or on bicycles!
games have been popular for centuries in many different countries, too. In
England it is called Egg Picking, or Egg Shakling, and children hold
hard-boiled eggs in their hands and knock them lightly against the eggs
held by others. When players' eggs break, they must give them to their
opponents. The champion is the child whose egg has the hardest shell!
Easter egg hunts arc customary all over the world. Held on or near Easter
Sunday, egg hunts often have separate areas for younger and older
children, and the winner is the child who finds the most eggs.
was started in Enrope hundreds of years ago. Gathering on gentle slopes or
hillsides, contestants rolled their eggs toward the finish line at the
bottom of the hill. The first unbroken egg over the finish line was the
In the United States, an annual egg roll was started during
the presidency of ]ames Madison over 180 years ago. The White House south
lawn became the site of the Easter Monday Egg Roll, and hundreds of
children participate in this traditional event. Adults 'are not allowed to
roll eggs, and the only adults allowed to watch the game are those
accompanied by children!