Easter—a Custom, a Practice, a Season, and a Greeting

By Sigrid Fowler, M.Div.

All writers in Op Ed are here to inform and acknowledge issues of importance to our communities, however these writings represent the views  and opinions of the authors and not necessarily of The Advertiser. 

            This year, we miss the Easter of family and community traditions, customs set aside in a year
of pandemic. We think of others who are setting aside theirs, as well. The Easter bonnets, hot crossed
buns, and Easter baskets we share with England and some Caribbean countries we will miss. The
chocolate “Easter bells” of France we may not. Easter bunnies excite our kids, but in Australia, rabbits
hazard crops and have little appeal; eggs come from the Easter bilby. We don’t expect wells to be
decorated with eggs and flowers, a Swiss tradition, and unlike Finnish kids, ours won’t miss going
around town in costumes. Our Easter eggs aren’t usually red, as in Greece, but the German custom of
hanging Easter eggs from trees turn up, even “around here.” An Easter egg tree doesn’t need social
distancing.
            At Easter, South Carolinians won’t feel deprived to miss the last ski holiday of the season–up
to two weeks in Norway. We won’t miss Norway’s favorite Easter treat, the chocolate-coated wafers
called Kvikk Lunsj. If the word makes you think of “quick lunch,” you have it right. In Italy, Easter is
called Pasqua and the Monday after Easter, Pasquetta, “Little Easter.” The egg, a universal symbol of
new life, everywhere becomes the Easter egg—in Italy, dyed “in simple, monochrome ways by placing
various spices, vegetables or fruits in boiling water . . . beets for red, vinegar for brown, saffron for
yellow, and blueberry for blue” (https://selectitaly.com/blog/all-you-can-italy/4-italian-traditions-
easter/). This year, Andrea Bocelli, the renowned tenor, sang “Music for Hope” in a live-streamed
event from the cathedral in Milan. He said, “On the day in which we celebrate the trust in a life that
triumphs, I’m honored and happy to answer ‘Sì’ to the invitation of the City and the Duomo of Milan,”
Bocelli previously said in a statement. “I believe in the strength of praying together; I believe in the
Christian Easter, a universal symbol of rebirth that everyone — whether they are believers or not —
truly needs right now” (https://www.etonline.com/andrea-bocelli-sings-from-empty-duomo-cathedral-
in-italy-for-special-live-easter-concert-144659).
            Chinese house churches gather in secret if at all, and with state-approved Catholics (no
official connection to the pope), we would miss a normal Easter—a time of baptisms. 
            In Russia, Easter traditions have returned in their full glory from the atheistic Soviet era when
religious practices were suppressed. Now, when serious house-cleaning fills the Thursday before
Easter, the day is called “Clean Thursday.” The Saturday before Easter a fast is maintained, and that
night churches are normally packed for services lasting into the early hours of Resurrection Day. As in
Greece, eggs are dyed red, the dye from skins of red onions. The custom is similar to a British
tradition of boiling eggs in onion skins (not red) to make a gold effect. Easter egg rolling is a
widespread European tradition and enjoyed in Russia. Eggs are rolled downhill in a contest to see
whose entry makes it first to the bottom without breaking. Egg rolling is also a custom we love. Think
of Easter parties held on the White House lawn, occasions we look forward to in future years. Egg rolls
in Russia would be later than ours since their Easter isn’t tied to the Gregorian calendar.
            For many, Easter is a season lasting forty days. Throughout this period, Russians, for
example, greet each other, if at a distance, “The Lord is risen,” expecting a reply: “The Lord is risen
indeed!” This custom is also practiced by the Moravian communities worldwide, as anyone discovers
who celebrates Easter in the Old Salem Village of Winston-Salem, NC. 
            Having joined others online in our own Easter observance this very different year, I am
thinking, how right the widespread custom of that greeting, “The Lord is risen.” I’m also thinking of
the Easter message Queen Elizabeth brought to her country: “Easter has not been canceled.” Indeed
not! In whatever way, we celebrate the living Lord, who walked out of a stone tomb in Jerusalem
more than two-thousand years ago. A Christian myth? Many seem to think so. I would merely note
that the worldwide Easter traditions—varied, persistently maintained and loved everywhere, many of
them Christ-centered—are a witness that testifies to the irresistible, unconquerable, glorious truth.
Jesus Christ is risen!

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