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RUSSIAN HOLIDAYS / EASTER-PASCHA


The Symbols Of Easter

Easter Eggs Cross Palm Leaves
Easter Lily Lamb Easter Bunny
Candles & Bonfires

Easter Eggs

As Christians traveled and shared Christ's story, more and more people came to believe in him. They began to see their familiar traditions, symbols, and celebrations of spring in a new way. These old traditions became more than a celebration of spring, and were seen as beautiful symbols of Christ defeating death and coming back to life.

The egg is one of the oldest spring symbols in the world. Primitive people knew that the oval shape of the egg was the same shape of both a raindrop and a seed, two important life-giving elements. They saw the egg as a promise of new life. In the spring, when birds and reptiles hatched from eggs, people knew that life would continue, and so they celebrated.

  Ancient Persians, Phoenicians, Hindus, and Egyptians all believed that the world began with a single egg. One legend tells of a great egg which broke in half. One half of the shell formed the earth, one half became the sky, and the yolk became the sun!


Eggs were given as springtime gifts in ancient China, Greece, and Rome. As the story of Christ's Resurrection spread over the world, people saw the egg as a symbol of the stone tomb from which Christ rose. They viewed the hatching birds and chicks as symbols of the new life Jesus promised his followers. Even though they had given eggs as gifts in the past, the gift of an egg now had a newer, deeper meaning.
  In England, in the Middle Ages, members of royal families gave one another gold-covered eggs as Easter gifts. Even though most people could not afford eggs of gold, they still enjoyed decorating eggs. Sometimes they wrapped leaves, flowers, or ferns around an egg before boiling it and the plants' patterns would be printed on the egg.
  In Russia and Poland, women and girls spent hours drawing intricate designs on Easter eggs.
In early America, children colored eggs using dyes made from bark, berries, and leaves.

  From 1870 until 1918, Peter Faberge was the most famous Easter egg decorator. He designed eggs from gold, silver, and precious gems for the kings of Europe and czars of Russia. Each egg cost thousands of dollars. Faberge eggs are now priceless works of art which may be found only in museums and private collections.
  Egg decorating is still practiced by artists who design beautiful eggs which open to reveal tiny scenes, music boxes, or even moving toys!

Candles & Bonfires

  An ancient times, huge bonfires were lit in the spring. When people became Christians, their spring fires represented the light coming to the world through Christ. Early Christians often lit bonfires on the night before Easter.
Now the candle is used as a symbol of the light of Christ. Many churches use a large, white Paschal candle in their Easter decorations. On Easter Eve, in the Greek Orthodox church, congregation members line up outside the front door holding lighted candles. One person knocks at the door and asks, "Isjesus inside?" Someone within calls, "No, he is not here. He is risen!" Then the door is opened wide and the people enter their church in glowing candlelight.
Long ago, people put out all of the fires in their homes on Easter Eve. On Easter morning, "new fire" was taken from the one large Easter candle at church as a sign of the new life offered by Christ.

Cross

  Before the time of Christ, the cross was also a well-known symbol, used as a special mark on clothes and buildings. In jesus' time, the cross was a sign of death, because Romans used crosses to punish criminals. When Jesus was crucified, believers saw the cross as a symbol of his suffering. Soon after the Resurrection, however, Christians began to see the cross as a sign of Jesus' victory Over death.
Today, Easter cakes, breads, flower arrangements, and cards are made in the shape of the cross. On Good Friday, buns decorated with white frosting crosses are enjoyed as breakfast treats.
For the Christian, the cross is a symbol of hope. And around the world, the cross is recognized as the mark of those who follow Christ.

Palm Leaves

  During Christ's time, it was a Roman custom to welcome royalty by waving palm branches. When Jesus entered Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday, people cut branches from palm trees, blanketed the streets with them, and waved them in the air shouting "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"
Today, on Palm Sunday, Christians all over the world carry palm branches in parades, make palm strips into crosses, and weave palm leaves into garlands for church decorations. In countries where palms do not grow, other plants are used instead.

Easter Lily

  Another favorite Eastertime plant is the lily. The Easter lily is new in the celebration of Easter, first brought to the United States in 1882 from Bermuda. On Easter morning, churches fill their altars with these lovely, waxy white flowers as a reminder of Christ's purity.

Easter Bunny

  The Easter Bunny is a popular part of many Easter celebrations in the United States, but its story goes back thousands of years.
In Egypt long ago, people believed the rabbit was responsible for the new life that abounded in the spring. Later, early Christians saw the connection between the rabbit and new life as a symbol for the Resurrection as well.
An old European legend says that the hare, a relative of the rabbit, never closed its eyes. Since it watched the other animals all night long, the hare became a symbol of the moon. The hare was soon connected with Easter because the holiday's date depends upon the full moon.
An old German story tells of a poor woman who loved children and enjoyed giving them Easter treats. One year, she hid brightly colored eggs in her garden, and while the children searched for them, they saw a hare hopping past. They thought the hare had left the eggs! German children made nests of leaves and branches in their gardens for the "Easter Hare." Some children left nests made of clothes or a hat in quiet corners of their homes. When German children came to the United States, they brought this custom with them.
Rabbits were more common in the United States than were hares, so the Easter Hare became the Easter Rabbit, and later, it was called the Easter Bunny. Early American children built nests of leaves and sticks in their gardens or barns for the Easter Rabbit to fill with colored eggs. Today, the Easter Bunny often brings his own baskets!

Easter Lamb

  Long before the first Passover, Hebrew families gave lambs as offerings to God. And since the first Passover, Hebrews serve lamb as an important part of the Passover feast each year.
When Jesus died during Passover, he gave himself as an offering to God for the sins of all the world. This is why the Bible calls Jesus the Lamb of God. Early Christians saw the lamb as a beautiful symbol of Jesus and began using it in their Easter celebrations.
Banners and flags decorated with pictures of lambs were carried in Easter celebrations during the Middle Ages. Later, in England, small Easter "pax cakes" were made with the imprint of a lamb on top.
Easter celebrations in many countries now feature candies and pastries shaped like lambs. A beautifully decorated Easter lamb cake is often the centerpiece of Easter tables in European countries.




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