Article: Easter traditions

Newry Cathedral News

How many of our Easter Traditions are based in Christianity?

An Easter garden

Easter is one of the busiest events in the liturgical calendar but there are also many traditions associated with this time. Have you ever thought how many of them are based on religious tradition.
Easter Bunny

The Bible makes no mention of a long-eared, white fluffy tailed animal who delivers decorated eggs to all the children on Easter Sunday. However, the Easter bunny is in all of our shop windows and in many homes around our parish as a symbol of this important Christian holiday. Rabbits are known to be prolific procreators as they can have up to 7 litters a year and each litter can have 12 babies. Small wonder then that they are an ancient symbol of fertility and new life. Traditionally, the Easter Bunny was the one who sat in judgement on whether children were good or bad, a little like Santa with his ‘naughty or nice list’.

Easter Egg

The custom of Easter eggs is likely to be linked to pagan traditions. The egg is an ancient symbol of new life and is associated with pagan festivals celebrating spring. From a Christian perspective, Easter eggs are said to represent Jesus’ emergence from the tomb and resurrection. Decorating eggs (not the chocolate kind) for Easter is a tradition that dates back to at least the 13th century. One explanation for this custom is that eggs were a forbidden food during the Lenten season in Medieval times, so people would paint and decorate them to mark the end of the period of penance and fasting, then eat them on Easter Sunday as a celebration. Tradition was that only good children received coloured eggs in their bonnet on Easter Sunday. Now of course they are made from chocolate for children or all ages.
Having Lamb

Lamb is a traditional Easter food. Christians refer to Jesus as the ‘Lamb of God’ though lamb at Easter also has roots in early Passover celebrations. In the story of Exodus, the people of Egypt suffered a series of terrible plagues, including the death of all firstborn sons. Members of the Jewish faith painted their doorposts with sacrificed lamb’s blood so that God would ‘pass over’ their homes. Jews who converted to Christianity continued the tradition of eating lamb at Easter. Historically, lamb would have been one of the first fresh meats available after a long winter with no livestock to slaughter. Our fields are full of newly born lambs at the moment and so the tradition lives on.

Hot Cross buns

They are symbolic of this significant day in the Christian faith when Jesus was crucified. Each bun is decorated with a cross made from flour paste, which represents the cross on which Christ died. The spices in hot cross buns are said to represent the spices that were used to embalm Christ after his death. They remind us of Good Friday which is the day Jesus was betrayed, arrested, put on trial, crucified, and buried (Matthew 26:47-68, Matthew 27:11-61). His friends went home, overwhelmed by fear and believing all was lost.

Easter Garden

It’s no secret that Easter ushers in the arrival of spring. The dark days of winter with the lack of colour appear to be forgotten in the midst of a riot of colour. Many of us start to brighten up our gardens with an array of blooming plants – daffodils, pansies, tulips, marigolds, and petunias. But an Easter or Resurrection Garden is a good way to remind us of the true meaning of Easter. By using a few stones, plants and a cross you can create a visual garden to remind us that Christ died for our sins.

Attend Easter Service at Church

For many families, Easter would not be complete without attending the services at their church. Easter Sunday marks the day Jesus was resurrected and appeared to several witnesses (Luke 24:1-49). It is the celebration that Jesus is alive, sin is defeated, and He has the power to make all things new. Alleluia.
Services in our Parish are as follows,

Holy Thursday

Chrism Mass 10.30am in the Cathedral
St. Colman’s College students will sing.
The Chrism Mass will be celebrated by Archbishop Martin
Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper
Cathedral: 7.30pm
St. Catherine’s: 5.30pm & 7.30pm
St. Colman’s Shinn: 7.30pm
The Cathedral will close at 10.00pm

Good Friday (a day of Fast and Abstinence)

The Stations of the Cross in all Churches at 3.00pm
Stations for the youth at 1.00pm in the Cathedral.
St. Catherine’s: Veneration of the Cross – 7.30pm
Evening Commemoration of the Lord’s Passion
Cathedral: 7.30pm, St. Colman’s Shinn: 7.30pm

Holy Saturday

Easter Vigil of the Resurrection of the Lord
Cathedral: 9.00pm
St. Catherine’s: 9.00pm
St. Colman’s Shinn: 9.00pm

Easter Sunday

Masses – times are as normal with an additional Mass in St. Brigid’s Church at 10.30am.
There is no 5.30pm Mass in the Cathedral on Easter Sunday.