On April 21st this year, Christians will celebrate Easter – the day on which the resurrection of Jesus is said to have taken place; however, based on regional customs and traditions, there are some who will observe Easter as a ‘holiday’, rather than a ‘holy’ day. Be that as it may, have you ever stopped for a second to think about why there’s added attention placed on the commercial nuances of Easter, rather than an emphasis being placed on its resurrection significance? Also, why does the observance of Easter (Christ’s Resurrection), experience an alternating shift in its observance between the months of March and April (unlike Christmas, Christ’s birth)? I’m clearly not the only person to consider these questions, so let’s take a closer look, shall we?

Easter takes place in the spring, right? Spring is a time for renewal, rejuvenation and new beginnings. The death, burial and resurrection of Christ is reflected in the coming-back-to-life of plants, trees, and most living things that lay dormant during the winter months. The watering that takes place prior to spring, typically starts with light rain-showers and isolated storms, that can swell to catastrophic proportions (and in some regions cause severe damage). However, when the rain lets up and the clouds roll back, the atmosphere appears calm and peaceful, with a blanket of moisture to symbolize cleansing and growth. The after-math of rainfall reveals to the human eye nature’s encoded life cycles for growth. These seasonal cycles are linked to the human, animal and plant worlds (on which we rely). It’s even been said…“The more devastating the STORM, the more delightful the SPRING!”

While the name “Easter” is often used to identify this Christian holiday, some non-Christian cultures and disciplines refer to this day by the term best translated as “Passover.” Celebrations that have become a common part of Easter Season include: Mardi Gras (Carnival), Ash Wednesday and Lent, Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Ascension Day, Eastertide (Easter Season), and Pentecost. In 2018, Easter was celebrated on April 1st (nearly three weeks prior to the targeted celebration for 2019). When you go back and research the moveable dates for this holiday, you’ll be hard pressed to find consecutive year-to-year celebrations that fall within the same month. The question is, why? Well, in the Hebrew Bible, Passover is described as a festival that commemorates the liberation of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt (as narrated in the Book of Exodus). It was, and it continues to be the most important Jewish seasonal festival that is celebrated on the first full moon following the northern hemisphere’s vernal (spring) equinox; therefore, the date for the annual Easter celebration continually fluctuates between March and April. The Jewish Passover (Nisan), which originally fell around day 14 of the month March or April (depending on the moon’s cycle), places a sense of focus on when Jesus died, and also emphasizes its continuity with Judaism (from which Christianity emerged), but there is no set date that marks the actual Easter celebration: the date continues to move in tandem with the positioning of the moon.

Passover? Easter? How, and when did we switch, and why? History shows that Roman Emperor Constantine (who favored Christianity), convened a meeting of Christian leaders at the Council of Nicaea, to resolve important religious disputes at the Council of Nicaea (A.D. 325). This most fateful meeting resulted in decisions about the Roman church and the status of Christ (whom council recognized as ‘fully human and fully divine’ … human to die, divine to rise). It served to move the persecuted fringe of the Roman Empire’s religious landscape to the center of the Roman Empire’s religious belief system; which is how the official celebration of Easter came into being. Yes, ‘Easter’ as an observance was discussed and incorporated into Roman law (as there is no Biblical call in the New Testament to celebrate the resurrection of Christ, only the burial). This new law resulted in the permanent conversion from Passover to Easter as part of the State Religion of the Roman Empire (making church membership and its observances compulsory, not optional). However, the celebrations weren’t always as positive as those we take part in today, and the celebrations did not include children for the most part. Leading up to the 17th century and onward, holidays were recognized (primarily) as a time for gathering and socialization time for adults. Prior to the 17th century, children were rarely (if ever) the center of attention: which meant Easter and holidays such as Christmas, focused mostly on adults. However, the tone of what it meant to celebrate Easter and Christmas began to change in the 19th century (this due in part to the evolution of machinery, increased wealth in industrialization nations, and the ability to commercialize and monetize holiday observances with toys and products marketed for appeal toward children).

Since the turn of the 19th century, Easter Sunday has been effectively reshaped as a domestic holiday with more of a youthful appeal and sense of focus (for children – this often means candy, Easter egg hunts, and photo-ops with the Easter Bunny). According to the National Retail Federations annual Easter survey, Americans will spend 18.4 billion on Easter this year http://bit.do/TZelementMAG-Consumer-FACTS. Albeit profitable for distributors, advertisers and manufacturers, we must be careful not to lose sight of the reason for the season simply because of expandable profit margins.

Currently, the infusion of ‘childhood’ into Easter (and other holidays), has resulted in a doting effect upon children, so-much-so, there’s now a kid-friendly holiday celebrated each month somewhere around the world (and of course, there are consumer price points associated with each one). Easter egg hunts and plush bunnies often serve as commercial symbolism for Easter – in a manner that does little to allow a child to have a religious perspective. Some say the infusion of ‘childhood’ makes the story of Christ’s death less daunting for younger children who may not grasp the significance of His selfless sacrifice (and this may very well be true). However, most will agree (those who subscribe to Christian beliefs), as children mature in their faith and grow in their knowledge of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, adults should be vigilant to preserve the meaning over the sacred observance and not allow the commercialization of the holiday to overshadow such a selfless sacrifice.

In the evening after Jesus died on the cross, a rich man by the name of Joseph of Arimathea made a request to Pontius Pilate that he be able to take Jesus’ body. Pilate agreed, and Joseph wrapped the body in a clean, linen cloth (Matthew 27:59). He then placed the body into a new tomb that he had cut out of rock, and rolled a big stone in front of the entrance. The following day, the chief priests asked Pilate if he would provide protection for the tomb. The reason for this is that the priests remembered that Jesus had stated He would rise after three days, and they did not want Jesus’ disciples stealing Jesus’ body in order to make it appear that He had risen from the dead. From Matthew 27:63 “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while He was still alive that deceiver said… “After three days I will rise again” …“So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.” Pilate agreed and provided a soldier or soldiers to guard the tomb. The soldiers made the tomb secure by making a seal on the tomb and then posted a watch. The following morning, Mary Magdalene and another Mary went to visit the tomb. According to Matthew, they are then visited by an angel of the Lord, who made the guards shake and become like dead men. He then tells the women this: “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; He has risen, just as He said. Come and see the place where He lay.” The angel said to the women… “Then go quickly and tell his disciples: He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him. Now I have told you.”

For personal reasons, not everyone will take part in this year’s Easter celebration; however, if you are an individual who commemorates the resurrection of the risen Savior, it is the hope of ‘TZelement MAG’ that your Resurrection Sunday, Passover, Lectionary Readings for the Easter Vigil, and/or Christian Observances are in the truest form of love. From our hearts to yours… HAPPY EASTER!