Easter is one of the most widely celebrated holiday seasons across the United States.
|2019||19 Apr||Fri||Good Friday||CT, DE, HI, IN, KY, LA,
NC, ND, NJ, TN & TX
|2020||10 Apr||Fri||Good Friday||CT, DE, HI, IN, KY, LA,
NC, ND, NJ, TN & TX
For many people, this holy occasion actually begins on Good Friday or even weeks earlier with involvement in various activities such as fasting, preparing decorations, and attending church services.
Based on the Bible and according to church tradition, the Easter holiday remembers the arduous journey of Jesus Christ as he journeyed to the cross where he was crucified. But Easter also marks a central belief of Christianity: the resurrection of Jesus three days later on what we now call Easter or Resurrection Sunday.
Easter in American history
Since most of the early American settlers were Puritans or members of Protestant churches and had no desire to partake in religious festivals or unusual practices, the idea and implementation of celebrating Easter in the United States did not reach popularity until sometime around the civil war era. 150 years later, studies show that over 80 percent of the population observe Easter in some way.
Each year, millions of Americans set aside time to honor and worship their Lord and Savior with thanksgiving. Some people limit their participation to such things as planning Easter egg hunts for children or hosting Easter brunches for adults. Nevertheless, there are a few constants that remain when it comes to recognizing Easter.
Church services during the Easter weekend
During Good Friday services, Christians all across the country put on spectacular productions of passion plays or recitals of the “seven sayings of Christ” then gather together again in churches on Easter Sunday for prayer and worship.
Dubbed as sunrise service, many Easter Sunday church services begin in the early hours of the morning after members spent the previous week or even 40 days fasting, praying and/or pledging vows of repentance.
Most churches and places of worship offer congregants communion which is an act done in remembrance of Jesus Christ’s “Last Supper” with the disciples. The wine represents the blood shed on the cross and the bread represents the broken body of Jesus Christ.
Church services are usually followed by a big family feast with the traditional meal usually consisting of ham or lamb and various side dishes such as potatoes and vegetables and lots of dessert.
Homes are adorned with Easter lilies. The leafy plant with the white blooms symbolizes virtue, purity and innocence. The defining symbol for Christians, Catholics, and other religious denominations is the cross which represents where they believe Jesus died for our sins.
Although Easter is largely considered to be a religious occasion, not all in the faith community celebrate in the same way. Each year in Mesa, Arizona, the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints hold a huge Easter pageant. With a cast of over 400, this pageant is reported to be not just America’s, but the world’s largest annual outdoor Easter pageant.
Members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), on the other hand, do not observe or celebrate traditional any Christian holiday, not even Easter. They believe every day is the Lord’s Day and to elevate any one specific day above all others suggests it is acceptable to perform un-Christian acts on other days. Quakers were once persecuted for their non-observance of holy days during the 17th and 18th centuries.
Easter Egg Roll and Easter Egg Hunts
During the Easter holiday, thousands of stores are stocked with colorful Easter egg baskets, chocolate candy shaped like bunnies, marshmallow chicks, jelly beans, other sugary treats and eggs of all kinds galore.
That said, one of the biggest events to take place in the United States is the annual White House Easter Egg Roll where children are invited to Capitol Hill to roll eggs across the White House lawn with a long-handled spoon. The first child to roll their eggs across the finish line wins. This tradition was first initiated by Dolly Madison, the wife of President James Madison, in 1814 and was held on the grounds of the United States Capital.
However, President Rutherford B. Hayes moved the joyful event to the White House lawn in 1878 and held the Easter Egg Roll on Easter Monday. The event was dropped during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s term in office, but quickly revived by Mamie Eisenhower during her husband Dwight Eisenhower’s presidency. Along with the egg roll race, parents and children are privy to storytelling, live music and much more.
The first time hard-boiled eggs were dyed in America was in the early 1700s. Today, some parents still put on a large pot filled with dozens of eggs to boil, dye them in bright colors and hide them outside for children to play a game of Easter egg hunting. Others choose to buy plastic eggs of various colors and artistically decorated. Prizes are generally given out for achievements such as most eggs collected, largest or smallest egg and best design.
Easter Day Parade and Easter Bonnet Festival
Perhaps the most famously noted Easter Parade in the United States is the one held in New York City which at one point drew over a million people and made dry goods merchants and milliners happy and rich.
Although not as grand as it used to be, the Easter Day Parade is still a much anticipated event in many U.S. cities even though many feel it has left its roots as a showcase for refinement. Nevertheless, it is still a time to see and be seen. From the 1880s to the 1950s, what started as a leisurely stroll along New York City’s famous 5th Avenue, almost magically morphed into a public and glamorous fashion show that began immediately after folks walked outside the church doors.
Eager upper class city dwellers got to show off their fancy outfits, top hats and Easter bonnets with the streets being their fashion runway. The parade has inspired movies and a 1933 Irvine Berlin song titled “Easter Parade” which was written for a Broadway revue called “As Thousands Cheer.” Other cities followed suit in launching Easter Day Parades including: Philadelphia, Boston, Richmond and New Orleans.
In the town of Asheville, NC, the Easter parade is preceded by droves of happy Easter egg hunters who unearthed their hidden bounty from the Biltmore Estate’s manicured lawns and shrubbery. Easter Day parades continue to be a cultural event enjoyed by locals and visitors alike.
Today, wearing your Sunday best is still optional, but now this springtime pageant is made up of people and pets who are often dressed in outrageous costumes. Therefore, being a participant is no longer limited to the wealthy. Since no attention grabbing assemble would be complete without some type of eye popping headgear, there is also an event to address the matter – the Easter Bonnet Festival.
Citizens can also roam the streets and stop traffic with their Easter bonnets – plain and simple or big and outlandish. The ideal spot for enthusiastic crowds to view New York City’s Easter Parade and Easter Bonnet Festival is around St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Participants can be found wandering along 5th Avenue from 49th to 57th Streets.
Whether from a religious standpoint or secular aspect, Easter is acknowledged by many in various ways. German settles introduced the Pennsylvania Dutch community to Easter bunny and egg tree symbols in the 1700s.
Every year, locals in New Orleans hold their biggest tourist attraction, an annual “Easter” carnival which includes a lively parade, marching jazz bands and a bumper party better known as Mardi Gras. The extremely popular festival occurs the day before Lent begins (Ash Wednesday). This 40-day period leading up to Easter Sunday grossly misrepresents the Catholic Church’s true intent of the holiday. Due to the overwhelming amount of commercialism and pagan origins of Easter, many churches prefer to call the holy holiday Resurrection Day.
Church attendance is usually higher on Easter Sunday than any other Sunday in the year. The emphasis being on the sacrifice Christ made for humanity and an invitation to accept salvation. The National Cathedral in Washington, DC; St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City; St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans and Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception are widely known for their Easter worship services.
Easter is a time for self reflection, remembrance and celebration. It is a holiday that has existed before the word “holiday” was ever defined. It is a day marked on every calendar in a country where the people are free to observe it in any way they choose.