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Joyce Jefferson
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Kiwanis Get an Easter Lesson

“What is Easter Sunday?” by Greg Grant, Pastor of Carmi First Christian Church

Greg Grant presented the April 18, 2019 program to the Carmi Kiwanis Club. He asked the club, “How did Easter become synonymous with bunnies and eggs?” Before addressing that question, he talked about the origin of the word “Easter”. He traced the different words from different cultures that may explain the name. However, in the end, he broke the news that we don’t know the origin of the word and it is not even in our Bibles.

Greg informed the club that the first reference to Easter can be found in a letter between two bishops debating the legitimacy of Easter around AD 154. What we do know, is that Easter and the Passover are intimately related and the events represented by each, mirror one another. Jesus is the slain Lamb, His blood is the blood of the lamb and because of the blood we are spared from death.

Most who celebrate Easter have a day called Good Friday or some variation. This marks the day of Jesus’ death on the cross. Many observe Lent, especially in liturgical churches. Lent is a forty (40) day period between Ash Wednesday and Good Friday that represents the forty (40) days that Jesus wandered in the wilderness.

The week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday is referred to as Holy Week or Passion Week. Palm Sunday marks the day of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem where His followers placed palm fronds in His path as a sign of respect. A little known day is Spy Wednesday, referring to Judas Iscariot’s betrayal. Maundy Thursday is a celebration of Jesus’ command after the Last Supper to “love one another.”

So, what determines the date of Easter? Originally, the Christians would wait to see when the Jews were going to celebrate Passover and then schedule their Easter services. Emperor Constantine and the Council of Nicaea put an end to the frustration in AD 325. They declared that Easter would be observed on the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after March 21st (vernal equinox). Greg advocates a simpler method like, “the second Sunday of April”.

Greg then told about some customs observed around the world. There’s the Paschal greeting, “Christ is Risen!” and the response, “He is risen, indeed!” Easter eggs represent the empty tomb. Easter Lilies are often used as decoration in churches because of Jesus’ reference to them in the Sermon on the Mount. However, the Easter Bunny may be the most interesting of customs; German Lutherans are credited with its origin. The Easter Hare would judge whether children were good or bad. Good little boys and girls would be given a brightly colored egg, candy or a toy, which the Easter Hare would be carrying. Of course the question remains, “Why a hare?” No one seems to know the answer.

Southern Germany is credited with chocolate being associated with Easter, which continues around the world today. In fact, in 2017 an incredible $18.4 billion dollars was spent by Americans on Easter. More money is spent annually on Easter candy than on Halloween candy, with 87% of parents surveyed saying they planned to give their children an Easter basket this year.

Greg closed with a listing of events scheduled this week in Carmi to celebrate Easter