Easter weekend is just days away. But when is Easter 2017 exactly, what is Easter really all about and how can you revitalise your Easter weekend this year?
Alongside Christmas, Easter is one of the major Christian holidays celebrated by the wider general public. And like Christmas, Easter is a holiday that has been absorbed and overtaken by the commercial holiday industry in recent decades. While this may have brought us all plenty of Easter eggs and hot cross buns, it may also mean that we are all missing out on some of Easter's quirkier traditions.
So, whether you have Good Friday off or just the two weekend days to enjoy the festivities, here's a guide to how you can enliven and revitalise Easter 2017 for the whole family with traditions both old and new.
When is Easter 2017?
In 2017, Easter falls on April 16 and Lent began on March 1. The date for Easter, which moves each year, is defined as the first Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal equinox.
This connects the Christian holiday of Easter to the Jewish Passover, an eight-day festival that marks the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in Ancient Egypt. This year, Passover began on April 10 and ends on April 18.
What is Easter?
Easter is a Christian holiday that celebrates the resurrection of Jesus. This was an important act for Christians, as it offered proof to his followers that he really was the son of their God. Beyond the Christian faith, today Easter is synonymous with new life and a celebration of spring.
The Easter weekend marks the end of Lent, a six-week observation of prayer, penance and self-denial that prepares the believer to celebrate renewal and resurrection. Lent, whose name comes from the Old English word for spring, begins on Ash Wednesday, forty days before Good Friday.
The week before Easter Sunday is often referred to as Holy Week. Easter itself is normally spread out over four days from Thursday to Sunday, marking the four days of Jesus' death and resurrection.
• Maundy Thursday – This commemorates the Last Supper, where Jesus ate with his twelve disciples.
• Good Friday – This commemorates the day Jesus was crucified and buried.
• Easter Saturday
• Easter Sunday – This commemorates Jesus' resurrection from the dead.
Interestingly, the name for Easter is believed to have pagan roots. Some surmise that Easter comes from the pagan goddess Eostre and holidays of new birth and the growing presence of the sun that are related to her.
Typical Easter Traditions
Some of the best known Easter traditions, which you may again enjoy in 2017, gravitate around the Easter egg. There are many traditions involving Easter eggs: the Easter egg hunt, the painting of Easter eggs in colorful designs, and the tradition of Easter egg rolling. This last one normally involves hard-boiled, painted eggs being rolled down hills or pushed along a lawn with long spoons (an annual White House tradition).
For Christians, the symbols of the egg and the newborn chick reflect new life. More specifically for the egg, it represents the stone that was rolled away from the entrance of Jesus' tomb.
Yet the use of eggs as a symbol of new life and celebration pre-dates these Easter traditions. For example, Nowruz, the Iranian New Year celebration, has included egg painting and decorating for thousands of years.
Another common Easter symbol is the Easter Bunny. This originated among German Lutherans, where the Easter Hare played a similar role to St.Nicholas at Christmas, deciding whether children had been good enough that year to be deserving of one of the candy eggs that he carried with him. This figure first appeared in Germany around 1682 and is thought, more generally, to reflect on the prolific breeding potential of rabbits and hares.
New Easter Traditions for Easter 2017
Beyond the Easter egg hunt, how can you make Easter 2017 more exciting or meaningful for the whole family? Here are some ideas for you to try out.
• Give to charity
A Maundy Thursday tradition asks churchgoers to hand out coins, known as Maundy Money, to homeless people. Using this as inspiration, why not use Easter 2017 to make a new dedication to give to charity, whether with money or your time?
• Give and get a foot massage
Another Maundy Thursday tradition reflects Jesus' action of washing the feet of his disciples. Why not use this as inspiration for a round of foot massages for the family, so each of you can offer and receive something from someone else?
• Learn about Easter
How much did you know about Easter before reading this article? There is a lot to learn about the Christian holiday and those of other denominations and cultures that celebrate similar ideas of new life. Why not spend Easter 2017 learning why we celebrate this festival? It may inspire you to create your own Easter celebrations for next year.
• Plant a tree
Easter is all about new life, so celebrate Easter 2017 by helping some new life to grow. Planting a tree in your backyard is something that can be done by the whole family and remains there as a reminder for you to enjoy for years to come. Alternatively, if you don't have a backyard, why not head out for a long walk in nature so that you celebrate the new life all around you (and burn off some of those chocolate calories!)
Whether you choose to follow the older traditions or create your own Easter celebrations that revitalise the holiday for your whole family, enjoy your 2017 Easter weekend.
[Featured Image by Mark Wilson/ Getty Images]