There are many symbols and rituals associated with Easter: palm crosses, hot cross buns, Easter eggs, the Easter bunny, watching for the rising of the sun at Easter, Easter fires, street dramas of the passion story.
Some of these customs have their origin specifically in the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus. The palm crosses on the Sunday before Easter recall the triumphant entrance of Jesus into the holy city of Jerusalem when the crowds greeted him with palm branches.
Hot cross buns are made without dairy products, from which the faithful have fasted during Lent. The cross on top represents the cross with which our Lord saved the world. The spice in the bun represents the spices used to embalm the dead body of Jesus.
Street dramas telling the story of the passion have become increasingly popular in recent years. Passion Plays, like Nativity Plays, were an important part of medieval life. They never entirely died out on continental Europe. And they have had a resurgence even in this country, from places as far apart as Brighton, Trafalgar Square, Newark, and Edinburgh.
But there are also Easter customs associated with pre Christian or pagan culture. They speak of the spring and the new life of nature: Easter eggs, Easter bunnies, the lighting of Easter fires, watching for the rising of the sun at Easter. They, quite legitimately, also have been used by Christians to express their faith in the Risen Lord. The egg speaks of the new life of the Risen Lord, breaking from the tomb. The ancient practice of spring fires is used in Christian liturgy on Holy Saturday to symbolise Jesus rising from the dead: the Easter candle is lit from it and carried into a dark church to symbolise Christ’s victory over sin and death. And Christians have since very early times built their churches to face the rising sun: Jesus, we believe, is the light sent by God to give us life and joy.
Both the Bible and the world about us witness to the central teaching of the Christian faith: Christ is Risen! Alleluia!
A very happy Easter to you all from Mark Crowther-Alwyn