The most prevalent calendars used by modern society are the Gregorian calendar and the Julian calendar. Unlike the wall and digital calendars used in the 20th and 21st centuries, scribes displayed calendars on rolled-up parchment in antiquity. Calculated by astronomical traditions, Easter can be as early as March 22 and as late as April 25. After the first full moon, Easter falls on the first Sunday, after the first day of spring. In 2021, for example, the first day of Spring was March 20. The first full moon afterward was March 28. That means that April 4 was the 2021 day for Easter.
1. Ash Wednesday (46 Days Before Easter)
"Ash Wednesday" is a day of marking believers foreheads with blessed ashes as a sign of repentance and humility. Lent, the 40 days preceding Easter, begins on Ash Wednesday. Many Christians practice fasting, abstinence, and repentance during that time to commemorate Christ's fasting in the wilderness. In the Western Church, it runs from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday and so includes forty weekdays. Self-examination and repentance are characteristics of Lent.
According to the Christian scripture, this 40-day period of abstinence recalls Moses, Elijah, and Jesus's fasts, all of which lasted for 40 days. It originally began in the western church on a Sunday. However, Pope Gregory I moved the beginning of Lent four days ahead in the late sixth century because Sundays were feast days.
The ashes used by priests on Ash Wednesday usually come from burned palm leaves blessed on the previous year's Palm Sunday. They symbolize death, mortality, and sorrow for sin. Ashes, marked in the form of a cross on foreheads, symbolize the forgiveness of sins through Jesus' death and resurrection.
2. Palm Sunday (1 week before Easter)
Palm Sunday is the week before Easter and the start of the Christian Holy Week. It commemorates events that occurred during the last days of the life of Jesus Christ. Matthew 21 of The Bible indicates that, during the Jewish Passover, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a colt (donkey) that another human had not ridden. As a result of the many miracles he had performed, Jesus received a hero's welcome as he entered the city.
Regarding Jesus as the leader destined to deliver them from the domination of the Roman Empire, the people spread palm leaves, a traditional symbol of victory, throughout the streets before him. The palm branch symbolizes an overpowering of the flesh and the world and is a sign of joy and triumph. Some European countries use Willow branches instead of palm branches.
3. Maundy Thursday (3 days before Easter)
Maundy Thursday is a Christian Holy Week commemoration of the Eucharist. From the Greek word for Thanksgiving, the term Eucharist refers to the Christian ceremony of the Last Supper. Consecrating and consuming bread and wine during the ceremony reflects on the last meal Jesus and his disciples shared in an upper room in the city of Jerusalem. The Last Supper, in which bread and wine are consecrated and consumed, also marks the practice of ceremonial foot-washing to imitate Jesus. He washed his disciples' feet before the Last Supper as a sign and example of humility and love.
"Maundy" derivs from the Latin based word mandatum (or mandatum novum). It alludes to the English word "commandment." The term "a new mandate" also comes from "maundy." Maundy reflects on the words of Jesus after he washed his disciple's feet. He instructed them with a new commandment – to love one another as he loved them.
4. Good Friday (2 days before Easter)
Good Friday is the day that remembers Jesus' death on the cross. Some hold that Good Friday comes from the phrase "God's Friday." Others accept that the word "good" represents that which is "holy." As a whole, Christians meditate on the thought that the greatest act of loved ever accomplished was the unimaginable atrocities endured by Christ on that day to redeem humanity. Some sources date Good Friday celebrations to 100 CE making it one of the oldest Christian Holidays.
The most prominent representation that points to how Jesus met his death is the cross (crucifix).
5. Holy Saturday (1 day before Easter)
Holy Saturday, also called Easter Saturday, represents the day after the crucifixion of Christ. Often referred to as the Vigil of Easter, Holy Saturday, considered the last day of the week, ends the Lent season. The followers of Jesus are said to have spent the day waiting and reflecting on their mission, calling, and situation.
Holy Saturday also signals the day that Roman governor Pontius Pilate instructed guards to be posted at the tomb of Jesus. Pilate was attempting to prevent the disciples from removing the body of Jesus and then claim that Christ rose from the grave.
The early Christian church used Holy Saturday for fasting and baptisms. The tradition of baptizing on Holy Saturday endured through centuries to modern times.
6. Easter Monday (1 day after Easter)
Many people in antiquity considered Monday to be unlucky. Today, some people regard Easter Monday, the day after Easter, as a bad luck day.
Different cultures throughout the world celebrate the day after Easter Sunday in different ways. The day is not considered bad luck or a holiday in some nations and is a holiday in other countries. Some think of Easter Monday as a solemn remembrance of the death and resurrection of Christ. In contrast, others celebrate the day with gleeful activities like Easter egg-rolling contests. Traditionally, the rolling of an Easter egg points to the rolling of the stone from the tomb of Christ.
7. Ascension Day (39 days after Easter)
Dating to 68 CE, Ascension Day is one of the earliest Christian holidays. The Bible indicates that Christ instructed and interacted with his disciples several times within the 40 days after his resurrection. After going to the Mount of Olives, the disciples of Christ watched as they saw Jesus ascend to heaven. Occurring ten days before Pentecost, Ascension Day flags the end of the Easter season.
Traditionally observed on a Thursday, thirty-nine days after Easter Sunday, some denominations have moved Ascension Day to the following Sunday.
8. Whit Sunday / Pentecost (49 days after Easter)
Whit Sunday celebrates the time, traditionally forty-nine days after Easter Sunday, when the disciples were praying. After they prayed, the Holy Spirit descended upon them. God's Holy Spirit gave the disciples the ability, "gift of tongues," to instantly speak fluently in other languages. At once, the disciples started proclaiming and preaching Jesus Christ to Jewish people from different parts of the world in their dialects.
Referred to as the day of Pentecost, Whit Sunday is a commemoration of the day the Holy Spirit's power gave birth to the Christian Church.
9. Whit Monday (50 days after Easter)
Adopting the name from Whit Sunday, Whit Monday occurs the day after Pentecost. Formally a significant celebration in Pennsylvania Dutch, United States, Whit Monday was called the "Dutch Fourth of July." In Lancaster, Pennsylvania, from the mid-eighteen hundreds to the end of the Civil War, citizens would eat, drink, and be merry on Whit Monday.
As with Whit Sunday, Whit Monday also celebrates the day the Holy Spirit's power gave birth to the Christian Church. The symbols for Whit Sunday are the same ones used for Whit Monday.
10. Trinity Sunday (56 days after Easter)
Instituted in 828 CE by Pope Gregory IX, Trinity Sunday is the only significant Christian holiday that celebrates a church doctrine and not a sacred historical occasion. Falling on the Sunday after Pentecost, Trinity Sunday commemorates the belief in the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). The Christian Trinity doctrine states that God is one God but three co-eternal, consubstantial persons.
Ascension Day - Time and Date. https://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/common/ascension-day
Calculating the Easter date. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/determining-easter-date.html
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