Holy Day or Holiday?
Every year the holidays merge closer together – I mean hot cross buns and Easter eggs have been on the supermarket shelves since before Christmas! But as we approach this holy day, how many associate it with religion or is it just another holiday?
Easter is the oldest festival of the Christian church, celebrating the resurrection of Christ and held on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the northern spring equinox. But how much of the traditional Easter message is lost on the everyday modern person? Do more of us associate this time of year with eating too much chocolate or scoring four days off work, than honouring their faith and going to church?
In the most recent Australian Census, 25.3 per cent of people cited Catholic as their religion, 22.3 per cent had no religion, 17.1 per cent were Anglican, five per cent belonged to the Uniting Church and 2.8 per cent were Presbyterian and Reformed.
It will be interesting to find out the results from the 2016 Census, given the incredible multicultural shift in recent years. And observe how the diversification of religion and increasing rate of people of no faith effect days such as Christmas, Good Friday and Easter.
RELIGIOUS IDENTITY OF AUSTRALIANS
22.3% No religion
2.8% Presbyterian and Reformed
5% Uniting church
27.5% Other religion
In his Easter Sunday sermon a few years ago, The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, highlighted the need for Christianity to reconnect with its original message of life, forgiveness, reconciliation and hope. This retaliation came from a survey revealing 53 per cent of children were unaware of the religious significance of Easter and 30 per cent thought it was to celebrate the birthday of the Easter Bunny.
“It is deeply sad that millions of children don't know the great news of the true meaning of Easter,” he said.
So do eggs and chocolate actually have anything to do with religion?
The Easter egg has been traced back to the early Christians of Mesopotamia, who stained eggs red in memory of the blood of Christ shed at his crucifixion. Eggs have since been associated with Easter as a symbol of fertility, rebirth and the Resurrection.
This then evolved into painting chicken eggs with vegetable dye and charcoal, then in the 17th and 18th centuries egg-shaped toys were given to children, along with cardboard, plush and satin-covered eggs filled with chocolates. Chocolate Easter eggs were first made in Europe in the early 19th century in France and Germany.
As for the origin of the Easter Bunny – that still remains a mystery.