Celebrating Easter, seeing the happy faces of people around,
hearing the joyful announcements "Christ is risen”, and, on the whole,
enjoining these God-blessed sunny spring days, let us pause for a moment and
ponder on some of the moral lessons given us by Jesus.
We well know that Christianity is ethical through and through,
but strange as it may seem, the moral teaching of Christ himself is not very
circumstantial. On the contrary, He appears rather terse on these matters, and
it is in His deeds, not words, that the larger part of His mission found its
expression. As a person, with all His inclinations and intentions, He does not
seem to be a determined moral reformer, not to speak of a revolutionary; and he
was not in the least a scholar or a man of letters. He wrote nothing. He mowed
quietly and slowly along the highways and among the villages of Galilee and
Judea and spoke to people not about any intricate problems of human existence,
or theology, or the mysteries of life and death, but about things which
belonged to the realm of daily life; and the words he chose for that were the
words of common men, not those of a professor of ethics.
He summed up His "theology” in an amazingly short and simple
"God is love”; and meeting people He very often did not teach them, as He
actually did from time to time, but offered them a ready sympathy and
understanding, even to the degraded and the outcast. To them He spoke in the
language of tolerance and benevolence, forgiveness and mercy. That was
His love – and that was the beginning of the moral revolution that transformed
II. When is a Easter?
The greatest Christian festival of the year is Easter. It is
March or in April, and millions of people joyously observe Christ’s
resurrection. This holy day never comes before March 22 or after April 25.
When is an Easter? That, of course, is celebrated on the first
Sunday after the paschal moon, which is the first full moon that occurs on or
next after the vernal equinox, March, 21st. So all you need to do is look at
the sky? Afraid not. For the moon in question is not the real moon, but a
hypothetical moon. This one goes round the earth one month in 29 days, the next
in 30 days, though with certain modifications to make the date of both the real
and fictional full moons coincide as nearly as possible. It yields a date for
Easter that can be as early as March 22nd and as late as April
25th. Today, Easters variability suits antiquarians, and the makers of pocket
diaries, many of which devote a Full page to the calculation of
Easter in perpetuity. But, nearly 1,700 years on, it does not suit those in
(mostly European) countries such as Britain and Germany where both Good
Friday and Easter Monday are public holidays. Early Easters are too cold to
enjoy. Late Easters are jammed up against the May Day public holiday.
Passion Sunday or Care Sunday two Sundays before Easter, is
still known as Carling Sunday in parts of the north of England. Carlings are
small dried peas, which are soaked in water overnight and then fried in an
almost dry pan – when they start to burst they are ready. Greengrocers sell
them, pubs serve them, and people eat them at home in a basin with a small
piece of butter and plenty of pepper and salt. There seems to be no good reason,
apart from the strength of the tradition, why they are eaten on this day.
Palm Sunday is the Sunday before Easter; for people near
Marlborough in Wiltshire it meant following a long-established custom in which
willow hazel sprays – representing palm – were carried up Martinsell Hill.
Maundy Thursday is the Thursday before Easter: the ‘royal
maundy’ describes the gift which for the last five hundred ears or so has been
given out by the sovereign on Maundy Thursday to as many men and woman as there
are years in his or her age. Once it was clothing which was given out, now it
is a sum of money; on odd – numbered years the ceremony usually takes place at
Westminster Abbey, in even – numbered ones at a church or cathedral elsewhere
in the country – though 1989 seems to have been an exception, for the
distribution took place at Birmingham Cathedral in honor of the centenary of
the city’s incorporation.
On Good Friday, the day of the crucifixion, hot cross buns are
always eaten as a sign of remembrance, and in some baker’s shops and
supermarkets they are on sale for many weeks before. It is a nationwide
tradition, though hot cross buns were unknown in some places – Bath, for
example – until the twentieth century. The buns may in fact pre – date
Christianity, since bread consecrated to the Roman gods was marked with lines
intersecting at right angels.
People celebrate the holiday according to the beliefs and their
religious denominations. Christians commemorate Good Friday as the day that
Jesus Christ died and Easter Sunday as the day that He was resurrected.
Protestant settlers brought the custom of a sunrise service, a religious
gathering at dawn, to the United States.
Today on Easter Sunday, children wake up to find that the Easter
Bunny has left them baskets of candy. He has also hidden the eggs that they
decorated earlier that week. Children hunt for the eggs all around the house.
Neighborhoods and organizations hold Easter egg hunts, and the child who finds
the most eggs wins a prize.
In England, children rolled eggs down hills on Easter morning, a
game which has been connected to the rolling away of the rock from Jesus
Christ’s tomb when He was resurrected. British settlers brought this custom to
the New World.
One unusual Easter Sunday tradition can be seen at Radley, near
Oxford, where parishioners ‘clip’ or embrace their church – they join hands and
make a human chain round it. It is Easter Monday, however, which sees a
veritable wealth of traditional celebrations throughout the country: to name
bat’ a few, there is morris dancing in many tows, including a big display at
Thaxted in Essex; orange rolling, perhaps a descendant of egg roiling, which
takes place on Dunstable Downs in Bedfordshire; and for perhaps eight hundred
years or more there has been a distribution of food at the Kent village of
Biddenden, ten miles from Ashford.
Then there is Leicestershire’s famous hare – pie scramble and
bottle – kicking which also takes place on Easter Monday; and another custom
kept up in many parts of England and Wales and called ‘lifting’ or ‘heaving’
was taken by some to symbolize Christ’s resurrection. On Easter Monday the men
lifted any woman they could find, and the women reciprocated the following day;
the person was taken by the four limbs and lifted three times to shoulder
height. When objections were made that this was ‘a rude, indecent and dangerous
diversion’ a chair bedecked with ribbons and flowers was used instead – it was
lifted with its victim, turned three times, and put down.
The Easter parade.
The origin of this very picturesque traditional occasion, known
affectionately as Easter Parade and starting at 3 o’clock in the afternoon of
Easter Sunday, is not as remote, or mysterious, as many of the traditions and
customs of England; there is no religious, or superstitious significance
attached to it whatsoever.
In 1858 Queen Victoria gave it the ultimate cachet of
respectability and class by paying it a state visit in the spring. For the
occasion she wore, of course, a new spring bonnet and gown. This set the
fashion for a display each spring of the newest fashions in millinery and
gowns, and from then onwards that traditions has expanded; every society lady
vied with her rivals to appear in something more spectacular than anything that
had seen before.
IV. Easter egg and Easter hare.
An egg has a symbolical meaning in many centuries. It’s well
known that eggs had a special significance even in the times of ancient Romans.
Eggs were their first disk during meals ("ab ovo”) and they were also in the
center of competition as a memory of Zeus’s sons, who hatched from eggs. Such
competition took place in France, Germany, and Switzerland. Eggs was a sign of
hope, life fertility even in the early epoch. In
Christianity, the Lord’s gift, which has begun in Jesus Christ. Eggs’ spreading
as the Easter symbols turned to be possible because they sewed as an original
rent or as a tax. The Easter was one of the days when this pay could be
Excavations witness that traditions of paintings on eggs have
been existing for 5000 years and have their regional peculiarities. Especially
in Slavonic countries eggs are decorated with many colored pictures of
Christian motives. As expensive souvenirs it was a habit to give eggs made of
noble metals, marble, was and wood.
The Easter hare, which, children believe, brings the Easter
eggs, may be understood as a transformed Easter lamb. In those places, where
there was no sheepbreeding, a hare substituted for a sheep in the Raster meal.
Due to its ability not to sleep the hare become a symbol of resurrection of
Wherever Easter is celebrated, there Easter eggs are usually to
be found. In their modern form, they are frequently artificial, mere imitations
of the real thing, made of chocolate or marzipan or sugar, or of two pieces of
coloured and decorated cardboard fitted together to make an eggs-shaped case
containing some small gift. These are the Easter eggs of commerce, which now
appear in shop-windows almost as soon as, and sometimes even before, Ash Wednesday
is past, and by so doing lose much of their original festival significance.
This is a real egg, hard-boiled, died in bright colours, and
sometimes elaborately decorated. In still appears upon countless
Eater Day, or is hidden about the house and garden for the children to find. In
some European countries, including England, the Easter Hare is said to bring
the Easter eggs, and to conceal them in odd corners of the gardens, stables, or
Because eggs are obvious symbols of continuing life and
resurrection, the pagan peoples of ancient China, Egypt, Greece, and Persia
used them, centuries before tile first Easter Day, at the great Spring
Festivals, when the revival of all things in Nature was celebrated.
Colouring and decorating the festival eggs seems to have been
customary since time immemorial. And old Polish legend says that Our Lady
herself painted eggs red, blue, and green to amuse the Infant Jesus, and that
since then all good polish mothers have done the same at Easter. A
Romanian tale says that the vivid red shade, which is a favorite almost
everywhere, represents the blood of Christ.
There are many ways of tinting and decorated the eggs, some
simple and some requiring a high degree of skill. They can be dipped into a
prepared dye or, more usually boiled in it, or they may be boiled inside a
covering of onion-peel. Ordinary commercial dyes are often used today for
coloring, but originally only natural ones, obtained from flowers, leaves,
mosses, bark, wood-chips, or other sources, were employed. In England, gorse-
blossom was commonly used for yellow, cochineal for scarlet, and logwood- chips
for a rich purple.
In Switzerland, minute flowers and leaves are sometimes laid on
the egg underneath the onion-peel to make a white flower-pattern on the yellow
or brown surface.
The decoration of Easter eggs is a traditional peasant art in
Eastern and Central Europe. Favorite designs vary in different regions. In
Hungary, red flower-patterns on a white ground are often seen; sometimes the
decorated eggs are fitted with tiny metal shoes, with minute spurs attached,
and curious little metal hangers. In Yugoslavia, the letters XV usually form
part of the design. They stand for Christos Vaskrese, meaning
‘Christ is risen’, which is the traditional Easter greeting of Easter
Europe. Russian eggs are sometimes elaborately decorated with miniature picture
of the saints, or of Our Lord. Polish designs are often geometrical, or
abstract, or they may include Christian symbols, like the
Gross or Fish, mixed with pagan emblems of new life. Painted eggs of this type,
know as pisanki, always appear on the Easter Table.
In some East European countries, scarlet eggs, as symbols of
resurrection, are placed on, or buried in, the graves of the family dead.
The latter custom was known in northern England until about the middle of last
century. One or two of the most beautifully ornamented Pace-eggs – the name by
which Easter eggs are still most commonly called in the northern counties –
would be saved and kept in tall ale – glasses in a corner cupboard, or some
other place where they could be easily seen. In Scotland,
Easter eggs are often called Peace or Paiss eggs. ‘Pace’ and ‘Paiss’ are all
corruptions of Pasch, or Paschal, of which the original root is the
Hebrew word pisach meaning Passover.
In parts of Germany during the early 1880s, Easter eggs
substituted for birth certificates. An egg was dyed a solid color, then a
design, which included the recipient’s name and birth date, was etched into the
shell with a needle or sharp tool. Such Easter eggs were honored in law courts
as evidence of identity and age.
That a rabbit, or more accurately a hare, became a holiday symbol can be traced
to the origin of the word "Easter”. According to the Venerable Bede, the
English historian who lived from 672 to 735, the goddess Easter was worshiped
by the Anglo – Saxons through her earthly symbol, the hare.
The custom of the Easter hare came to America with the Germans
who immigrated to Pennsylvania in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
From Pennsylvania, they gradually spread out to Virginia, North
South Carolina, Tennessee, New York, and Canada, taking their customs with
them. Most eighteenth – century Americans, however, were of more austere
religious denominations, such as Quaker, Presbyterian, and Puritan. They
virtually ignored such a seemingly frivolous symbol as a white rabbit. More
than a hundred years passed before this Teutonic Easter tradition began to gain
acceptance in America. In fact, it was not until after the Civil War, with its
Legacy of death and destruction, that the nation as a whole began a widespread
observance of Easter it self, led primarily by Presbyterians.
They viewed the story of resurrection as a source of inspiration and renewed
hope for the millions of bereaved Americans.
V. Thoughts from Ireland.
By tradition, Good Friday has always been a day of mourning and
fasting, for decorating churches with branches of yew (palm) and other
evergreens, and the ceremonial distribution of gifts to the poor.
Many Christians fast and attend services between noon and 3 p.
m., the hours Jesus is believed to have spent on the cross, since the day
commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus.
On Easter Sunday the churches are beautifully decorated with
white lilies. Joyful religious music is heard and sermons ring with hope.
Children and their parents traditionally attend church, usually wearing new
spring clothes. The mothers and their daughters wear colorful flowered hats.
Many other traditions and popular customs, which probably go back to pagan
times, are also associated with Easter throughout Europe, for example, the
sending of Easter cards and the giving of Easter eggs. Eggs are a symbol of
life and fertility or recreation of spring. It was not however until the 19th
century, that the practice of giving and exchanging eggs at Easter was
introduced in England.
Easter custom, the barrels are gratefully emptied by the
In London there is Easter Parade in Battersea Park. What used to be merely an
occasion for sporting the latest fashions in the park on Easter Sunday has now
developed into one of the most spectacular carnival processions of the year,
with military bands, decorated floats, Easter Princess, and all.
Another thing English people traditionally eat at Easter is hot
cross- buns. One would hardly use them to cure whooping cough, but in bygone
days buns, which had been baked on Good Friday, were thought to have magical
healing powers. Because of the spices they contain, hot cross-buns seldom go
moldy, and even today country housewives hang a few from the kitchen beams to
dry. When needed, the buns can be powdered, mixed with milk or water and given
as a medicine. Of course, for the magic cure to work, they have to be buns that
were actually baked on Good Friday. For Easter dinners at family reunions
Englishmen traditionally eat baked ham or chicken with a famous English
apple-pie to follow/
For a good apple pie you will need:
1 lb apples (500 gm)
4 oz flour (100 gm)
2 oz butter or margarine
3 oz sugar (75 gm)
2 oz sultans (50 gm)
1 oz chopped nuts (25 gm)
Now you can make a real English apple – pie. Here are the
instructions. Put them in the correct order, and number the instructions 1 to
Mix the nuts, sultanas, cinnamon and half the sugar with the
Bake in a medium oven (300F)
for 30 minutes. Peel and core the apples. Cut them into small pieces and put
them into a baking dish. Sieve the flour into a mixing bowl. Sprinkle the
mixture over the apples.
Rub the soft butter into the flour with your finger – tips. When
the butter melts, the mixture will look like bread – crumbs. Add the rest of
the sugar. And now serve the pie hot with cream. Enjoy it! And as Russians say,
Christ is risen! Expecting the answer, Christ is risen indeed!
VI. Easter in England.
Easter it is a time for the giving and receiving of presents which
traditionally take the form of an Easter egg and hot cross buns. The Easter egg
is by far the most popular emblem of Easter, but fluffy little chicks, baby
rabbits and spring time flowers like daffodils, dangling catkins and the arum
lily are also used to signify the Nature's awakening.
Nowadays Easter eggs are usually made of chocolate or marzipan or sugar.
True Easter eggs are hard-boiled, dyed in bright colours, and sometimes
elaborately decorated. Colouring and decorating the festival eggs seems to have
been customary since time immemorial They can be dipped into a prepared dye or,
more usually, boiled in it, or they may be boiled inside a covering of onion
peel Natural dyes are often used for coloring today. They are obtained from
flowers, leaves, mosses, bark, and wood-chips.
Egg-rolling is a traditional Easter pastime which still flourishes in
Britain. It takes place on Easter Sunday or Monday, and consists of rolling
coloured, hard-boiled eggs down a slope until they are cracked and broken after
which they are eaten by their owners. In some districts this is a competitive
game. But originally egg-rolling provided an opportunity for divination. Each
player marked his or her egg with an identifying sign and then watched to see
how it sped down the slope. If it reached the bottom unscathed, the owner could
expect good luck in the future, but if it was broken, unfortune would follow
before the year was out, Eating hot cross buns at breakfast on Good Friday
morning is a custom which is also flourishing in most English households.
Formerly, these round, cakes marked with a cross, eaten hot, were made by
housewives who rose at dawn; for the purpose, or by local bakers who worked
through the night to have them ready for delivery to their customers in time
for breakfast. There is an old belief that the true Good Friday bun — that is,
one made on the anniversary itself — never goes moldy, if kept in a dry place.
It was once also supposed to have curative powers, especially for ailments like
dysentery, diarrhea, whooping cough, and the complaint known as "summer
Within living memory, it was still quite usual in country districts for a few
buns to be hung from the kitchen ceiling until, they are needed. When illness
came the bun was finely grated and mixed with milk or water, to make a
medicine, which the patient drank.
VIII. Easter in Ukraine and Russia.
In Ukrainian, Easter is called Velikden (The Great Day). It has
been celebrated over a long period of history and has many rich folk traditions
that are no longer fully preserved. The last Sunday before Easter (Palm
Sunday) is called Willow Sunday (Verbna nedilia). On this day pussy-willow
branches are blessed in the church. The people tap one another with these
branches, repeating the wish: ‘Be as tall as the willow, as healthy as the
water, and as rich as the earth’.
The week before Easter, the Great Week (Holy Week), is called
White or Pure Week. During this time an effort is made to finish all fieldwork
before Thursday, since from Thursday on work is forbidden. On the evening of
‘Pure’ (also called ‘Great’ or ‘Passion’ [Strasnyi]) Thursday, the passion
(strasti) service is performed, after which the people return home with lighted
candles. Maundy Thursday, called ‘the Eater of the dead’ in eastern Ukraine and
Russia, is connected with the cult of the dead, who are believed to meet in the
church on that night for the Divine Mass.
On Passion (Strasna) Friday – Good Friday – no work is done. In
some localities, the Holy Shroud (plashchanytsia) is carried solemnly three
times around the church and, after appropriate services, laid out for public
veneration. For three days the community celebrates to the sound of bells and
to the singing of spring songs – vesnianky. Easter begins with the Easter
matins and high mass, during which the pasky (traditional Easter breads) and
pysanky and krashanky (decorated or colored Easter eggs) are blessed in the
church. Butter, lard, cheese, roast-suckling pigs, sausage, smoked meat, and
little napkins containing poppy seeds, millet, salt, pepper, and horseradish
are also blessed. After the matins all the people in the congregation exchange
Easter greetings, give each other krashanky, and then hurry home with their
baskets of blessed food.
The pysanky and krashanky are an old pre-Christian element and
have an important role in the Eater rites. They are given as gifts or exchanged
as a sign of affection, and their shells are put in water for the rakhmany
(peaceful souls); finally, they are placed on the graves of the dead or buried
in graves and the next day are taken out and given to the poor.
Related to the exchange of krashanky is the rite of sprinkling with water,
which is still carried on in Western Ukraine. During the Easter season in
Ukraine and Russia the cult of the dead is observed. The dead are remembered on
Maundy Thursday and also during the whole week after Easter.
For the commemoration of the dead (provody) the people gather in the cemetery
by the church, bringing with them a dish containing some food and liquor or
wine, which they consume, leaving the rest at the graves.
1. Газета "The English”, April №14/1996.
2. Газета "The English”, March №12/1997.
3. Газета "The English”, March №12/1995.
4. Газета "English Learner’s digest”, April, 1995.
5. Газета "English Learner’s digest”, April, 1997.