Far from Home

What does Easter mean to you?

By Gareth Hunter

Gareth Hunter muses on Easters past and present, in the U.K. and in Peru.

What does Easter mean to you?

(Photo: Internet)

For those of you who don’t know, Easter is a Christian festival that celebrates the latter part of Christ’s life. This period in the Christian calendar begins about a month earlier at a time Christians call ‘Lent,’ which represents Christ’s pilgrimage in the desert. Many people symbolically fast to commemorate this time when Jesus too was without food or water; the good things Christians give up perhaps representing those things with which he was tempted by the devil.

As a child and a practicing Catholic I would faithfully give up chocolate, sweets, or toys for Lent, go with my parents to church on good Friday, which, for Christians, is the anniversary of Christ’s death on the cross, and wait patiently for Easter Sunday when I could stuff my face with as much Easter egg as I could fit into it. The egg symbolizes new life and it was on Easter Sunday in 0036 Ad (actual date may vary) that Christ’s disciples rolled back the stone and found Jesus’ tomb empty. He had risen into heaven, according to the New Testament, and Christians today still hold this as a day for celebration, believing that he did so having washed them free of all their sins both past and present.

In spite of protests to the contrary, England is, loosely speaking, a Christian country but not in a very serious or generally practicing sort of way and so some genius executive (presumably of a greetings card or chocolate manufacturer) came up with the idea of the Easter Bunny as a kind of secular alternative to Jesus. The Santa Claus of Easter. People in England wait on Sunday for their fathers, uncles, or older brothers in the role of the imagined Easter Bunny sneaking up to their houses to deliver baskets of eggs and/or presents or hide them in their gardens. There is the obligatory knock at the door, you rush to open it only to find the step empty but for the basket and your father telling you a tale of how he’d glimpsed an ear or heard this gargantuan rabbit as it hopped up to your front path.

In Peru, predominantly a Catholic country, Easter is given quite a bit more importance. Semana Santa, or Holy Week, is a national holiday and up and down the country there will be elaborate celebrations, pilgrimages, and street festivals, the heart of which can be found in the Andean city of Ayacucho.

According to Peruline.com, ‘Nowhere else in South America, (do) people celebrate Jesus Christ’s passion and resurrection with such a profound faith and fervor’ as in Ayacucho. During the religious week there will be great displays of pious expressions of faith including flower carpet exhibitions, fireworks displays, bull running, and various enactments of the story of Jesus’ journey through the town to the place of crucifixion. A statue of Jesus is paraded through the town on a white mule with people following carrying golden palm leaves and before the final mass and ensuing celebration all the lights in town are turned off and a statue of Jesus and Mary are paraded through the streets lit only by candles carried by worshippers. If you can stay up, the celebrations end with a huge fireworks display and many stay to watch the sunrise over the city.

Whether you are Christian or not, make sure you enjoy the holiday this Easter. As Holly Baxter of the Guardian points out, ‘The tradition of embracing time away from work with close friends and family, whatever the cause, is one in which everyone of every belief can take part.’ Happy Easter.

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