Tag Archives: Easter

What Is Ash Wednesday

ash wednesday

The Rites of Ash Wednesday

In the Christian religion, Ash Wednesday is the first day of the observation of Lent, and usually falls in February, though its date of observance depends on the week in which Easter Sunday is celebrated. Generally, Ash Wednesday is observed on the seventh Wednesday before Easter, usually forty-six days from the Christian event that celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave.

The name, Ash Wednesday, originates from around the eight century and is a day when all Roman Catholics are asked to approach the alter of their community church or cathedral, to be marked with the sign of the cross. The cross, marked on the foreheads of the faithful, symbolizes that man rose from the ashes or dust and to ashes or dust shall he return. In the old days, the ashes were created from the burning of palm fronds mixed with olive oil that were blessed the Palm Sunday of the previous year. While the day isn’t observed in Protestant churches in Germany, it is recognized and celebrated by many churches and faiths in America, some with the use of ashes, some without. Among those who practice and observe Ash Wednesday are Roman Catholics, Episcopalians and Anglicans, in addition to many Lutherans and some Presbyterians and Methodists.

The symbol of the ash cross, written on the forehead, is a token of recognition of mortality and the urging of repentance in mankind. Lent is officially forty days long, and Sunday’s are not counted as days of penance, but depending on the calendar, Ash Wednesday may fall anywhere from early February to early March. Nevertheless, it is celebrated by either a Catholic Mass or church services by many denominations and faiths in the United States, usually with an evening church service, where the priest or pastor or minister marks the forehead of each member of the congregation with blessed ashes, which are not to be washed off until either sunset or until parishioners arrive back at their homes. During the service, certain phrases are usually uttered, among them, “Remember, man, that you are dust and unto dust you shall return” or “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel” or “Repent and hear the Good News”.

Within the Catholic Church, Ash Wednesday is observed with fasting and abstinence of meat and repentance. In other faiths, the day marks the beginning of Lent, when most observers give up something they like to eat or do for the period of forty days until Easter as a sign of personal sacrifice. Many different faiths honor the season by reflecting on their faith, and their dedication to serving God.

While Ash Wednesday is a major religious holiday throughout the world, is it not an official holiday in the United States and people are not given the day off, which is the reason most religious services to honor the day are held during the evening hours. It is a time when Christians throughout the country remember the sacrifices of Christ as He ventured to Jerusalem for the last time and was brought before Pontius Pilate, scourged and then crucified. What little tokens we can offer aren’t meant to compare to the suffering of Christ, but they are symbolic of our understanding and are meant to serve as an example to leading a more pure and righteous existence.

Ash Wednesday is not generally celebrated in schools throughout the country, except religious or private religious based private schools, in recognition of separation of church and state in America. The observance of Ash Wednesday is a personal choice for all American, which is a basic right; to practice their faith and beliefs in any manner they so choose.

How To Celebrate Easter Sunday

Celebrating Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday is the day Christians all over the world celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The day is honored and observed by millions of people throughout the world as one of the greatest events in the history of mankind. It was the Saxons who first applied the term ‘Easter’ to commemorate Christ’s rising from the dead, although not without some argument from the early Christian community, who debated about the particular day the event should be celebrated.

While most Christians celebrate Easter on a Sunday, Jews who converted to Christianity preferred to celebrate Easter on the same day as they had observed the Jewish feast of the Passover. While no church body has ever officially designated a specific day to celebrate Easter, the matter was brought up to the League of Nations in 1923. In any case, it’s unknown who actually designated the second or third Sunday every year to celebrate Easter, though Constantine the Great ordered his court to dress in their finest clothes to honor the day with feasting and celebration so many hundreds of years ago. During the early years of celebrating this very Holy of holidays, religious leaders and church congregations somberly recognized the events leading up to Easter Sunday, including Christ’s entry into Jerusalem, the Passover, the Betrayal and the Crucifixion, followed by Christ’s hurried burial in the sepulcher and then, finally, the discovery of His empty tomb. Many countries celebrated the religious holiday in different ways, and in Greece and Italy, athletic games followed religious services and ceremonies. In early Russia, everyone was welcome to ring the church bells.

According to historical records, it is believed that the first Easter Sunday sunrise service was observed in Germany in 1732, while one of the first such services occurred in early Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in 1741. Today, sunrise services on Easter Sunday morning are observed across the United States. One of the major ways in which modern Americans celebrate Easter these days is to purchase new dresses, suits and hats, enjoy colorful parades and dye and hunt Easter eggs and eat candy. Eggs especially have become closely connected with Easter in America, and are recognized as a symbol of the resurrection in many faiths, representing new seeds of life and fertility, the continuation of the human species. The Easter bunny as well has roots in tradition and history, as the early Germans believed that the rabbit also personified new life. In ancient times, eggs were rare, and gifts of eggs were considered precious gifts, as when eggs were dyed for spring festivals.

Over time, eggs, rabbits and bright, new colors have become symbolic with the Easter event, especially in the United States, accompanied by the Easter baskets that all these gifts can be carried and collected in. Egg hiding and egg rolling events became a popular game in England, and then the United States. Some claim that the game symbolizes the actions of the first arrivals to Christ’s tomb that first Sunday morning as they rolled the stone away from the entrance. Perhaps no national event is so beloved as the egg rolling tradition on the White House lawn that takes place on Easter Monday morning every year. The custom was begun by President James Madison and continues to this day, though it was suspended briefly during periods of war.

Easter Sunday is one of the most important religious holidays to be celebrated in the United States, a time when millions of people don their finest and reflect on their beliefs. For some it’s one of the most joyous religious celebrations of the year, while for others, it’s a time to look forward, to shake off the chill of winter and look forward to new growth, new life, and new hope.