Palm Sunday is the sixth Sunday of Lent and the last Sunday before Easter. It is also known as Passion Sunday, Willow Sunday, and Flower Sunday.
Palm Sunday commemorates the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, where he would be crucified five days later. According to the Gospels, Jesus rode into town on a donkey as exuberant crowds hailed him as the Messiah and spread out palm branches and cloaks in his path. The event commemorated on Palm Sunday is told in all four gospels (Matthew 21, Mark 11, Luke 19, John 12).
Good Friday rituals and traditions are distinct from those of all other Church observances and add to Good Friday's considerable significance. The entire ceremony is somber, with priests and deacons dressing in black vestments. The pulpit and the altar are bare, and no candles are lit. The purpose behind the solemn presentation is to create an awareness of grief over the sacrifice of God's only begotten Son.
Starting anytime between midnight and 3 a.m., priests and other clerics begin to recite specific prayers. At the morning ceremony, the priest or church official recites lessons from the scriptures. Afterwards, there is a succession of prayers asking for God's mercy and forgiveness on all mankind.
At the noon hour comes the Adoration of the Cross, where a representation of the True Cross is unveiled and the clergy and laity pay homage to the sacrifice of Christ. In the Jerusalem Church, a remnant of the True Cross itself is presented for the ceremony. Next comes the Mass of the Presanctified, in which the priest or church official takes Communion from the host that was blessed during the Maundy Thursday ceremony. The ceremony concludes around 3 p.m. with a procession, which is followed by evening prayers.
In many Protestant churches, Good Friday observances begin at noon and last until 3 p.m. This coincides with the hours (according to the scriptures) that Jesus hung on the cross. These services often include sermons on the last seven phrases that Jesus spoke while being crucified. Other services include re-enactments of the Passion according to the Gospel of John, processions of the Stations of the Cross, and the singing of appropriate hymns. All observances add to Good Friday significance and to the richness of meaning for those who know the history of the observance.
To many Christians, Good Friday is felt as a day of sorrow. It is a time to grieve over the sin of man and to meditate upon the love that God has so generously bestowed upon humanity in giving His only Son for the redemption of sin. Various churches observe Good Friday in addition to Catholics and Eastern Christians. Anglicans, Methodists, and Lutherans all observe Good Friday to varying degrees.
Deciding WHEN Easter is to be celebrated
According to the New Testament, Christ was crucified on the eve of Passover and shortly afterward rose from the dead. In consequence, the Easter festival commemorated Christ's resurrection.
In time, a serious difference over the date of the Easter festival arose among Christians. Those of Jewish origin celebrated the resurrection immediately following the Passover festival, which, according to their Babylonian lunar calendar, fell on the evening of the full moon (the 14th day in the month of Nisan, the first month of the year); by their reckoning, Easter, from year to year, fell on different days of the week.
Christians of Gentile origin, however, wished to commemorate the resurrection on the first day of the week, Sunday; by their method, Easter occurred on the same day of the week, but from year to year it fell on different dates. The churches of the West, descendants of Greco-Roman civilization, celebrated Easter on a Sunday.
Constantine I, Roman emperor, convoked the Council of Nicaea in 325. The council unanimously ruled that the Easter festival should be celebrated throughout the Christian world on the first Sunday after the full moon following the vernal equinox; and that if the full moon should occur on a Sunday and thereby coincide with the Passover festival, Easter should be commemorated on the Sunday following. Coincidence of the feasts of Easter and Passover was thus avoided.
Ways of fixing the date of the feast tried by the church proved unsatisfactory, and Easter was celebrated on different dates in different parts of the world. In 387, for example, the dates of Easter in France and Egypt were 35 days apart. About 465, the church adopted a system of calculation proposed by the astronomer Victorinus (fl. 5th cent.), who had been commissioned by Pope Hilarius (r. 461–68) to reform the calendar and fix the date of Easter. Elements of his method are still in use. Refusal of the British and Celtic Christian churches to adopt the proposed changes led to a bitter dispute between them and Rome in the 7th century.
Reform of the Julian calendar in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII, through adoption of the Gregorian calendar, eliminated much of the difficulty in fixing the date of Easter and in arranging the ecclesiastical year; since 1752, when the Gregorian calendar was also adopted in Great Britain and Ireland, Easter has been celebrated on the same day in the Western part of the Christian world. The Eastern churches, however, which did not adopt the Gregorian calendar, commemorate Easter on a Sunday either preceding or following the date observed in the West. Occasionally the dates coincide; the most recent times were in 1865 and 1963.
Because the Easter holiday affects a varied number of secular affairs in many countries, it has long been urged as a matter of convenience that the movable dates of the festival be either narrowed in range or replaced by a fixed date in the manner of Christmas. In 1923 the problem was referred to the Holy See, which has found no canonical objection to the proposed reform. In 1928 the British Parliament enacted a measure allowing the Church of England to commemorate Easter on the first Sunday after the second Saturday in April. Despite these steps toward reform, Easter continues to be a movable feast.
Connected with the observance of Easter are the 40-day penitential season of Lent, beginning on Ash Wednesday and concluding at midnight on Holy Saturday, the day before Easter Sunday; Holy Week, commencing on Palm Sunday, including Good Friday, the day of the crucifixion, and terminating with Holy Saturday; and the Octave of Easter, extending from Easter Sunday through the following Sunday. During the Octave of Easter in early Christian times, the newly baptized wore white garments, white being the liturgical color of Easter and signifying light, purity, and joy.
The Christian festival of Easter probably embodies a number of converging traditions; most scholars emphasize the original relation of Easter to the Jewish festival of Passover, or Pesach, from which is derived Pasch, another name for Easter. The early Christians, many of whom were of Jewish origin, were brought up in the Hebrew tradition and regarded Easter as a new feature of the Passover festival, a commemoration of the advent of the Messiah as foretold by the prophets.
Easter, a Christian festival, embodies many pre-Christian traditions. The origin of its name is unknown. Scholars, however, accepting the derivation proposed by the 8th-century English scholar St. Bede, believe it probably comes from Eastre, the Anglo-Saxon name of a Teutonic goddess of spring and fertility, to whom was dedicated a month corresponding to April. Her festival was celebrated on the day of the vernal equinox; traditions associated with the festival survive in the Easter rabbit, a symbol of fertility, and in colored easter eggs, originally painted with bright colors to represent the sunlight of spring, and used in Easter-egg rolling contests or given as gifts.
Such festivals, and the stories and legends that explain their origin, were common in ancient religions. A Greek legend tells of the return of Persephone, daughter of Demeter, goddess of the earth, from the underworld to the light of day; her return symbolized to the ancient Greeks the resurrection of life in the spring after the desolation of winter. Many ancient peoples shared similar legends. The Phrygians believed that their omnipotent deity went to sleep at the time of the winter solstice, and they performed ceremonies with music and dancing at the spring equinox to awaken him.
In Medieval Europe, eggs were forbidden during Lent. Eggs laid during that time were often boiled or otherwise preserved. Eggs were thus a mainstay of Easter meals, and a prized Easter gift for children and servants.
In addition, eggs have been viewed as symbols of new life and fertility through the ages. It is believed that for this reason many ancient cultures, including the Ancient Egyptians, Persians, and Romans, used eggs during their spring festivals.
Many traditions and practices have formed around Easter eggs. The coloring of eggs is a established art, and eggs are often dyed, painted, and otherwise decorated. Eggs were also used in various holiday games: parents would hide eggs for children to find, and children would roll eggs down hills. These practices live on in Easter egg hunts and egg rolls. The most famous egg roll takes place on the White House lawn every year.
The Easter Bunny
Hares and rabbits have long been symbols of fertility. The inclusion of the hare into Easter customs appears to have originated in Germany, where tales were told of an "Easter hare" who laid eggs for children to find. German immigrants to America -- particularly Pennsylvania -- brought the tradition with them and spread it to a wider public. They also baked cakes for Easter in the shape of hares, and may have pioneered the practice of making chocolate bunnies and eggs.
Easter cards arrived in Victorian England, when a stationer added a greeting to a drawing of a rabbit. According to American Greetings, Easter is now the fourth most popular holiday for sending cards, behind Christmas, Valentine's Day, and Mother's Day.
After their baptisms, early Christians wore white robes all through Easter week to indicate their new lives. Those had already been baptized wore new clothes instead to symbolize their sharing a new life with Christ.
In Medieval Europe, churchgoers would take a walk after Easter Mass, led by a crucifix or the Easter candle. Today these walks endure as Easter Parades. People show off their spring finery, including lovely bonnets decorated for spring.
AND for those of you who will be inundated with the Easter eggs your children found during their Easter Egg hunt..... here is a link to a site which has some really good sounding recipes using hard boiled eggs!
Leftover Easter Eggs
The history of the Easter Bunny
The symbols of Easter
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