Easter Customs in America, Australia and Africa

Easter is a time when Christians celebrate Christ giving his life to wash away our sins and when he was resurrected. In America many go to Easter morning service. Then they go home or to other family members homes to have dinner. Baskets are filled with candy and treats and given to the children. Eggs are colored and decorated and hidden for children to hunt for. It is the tradition in American that the Easter bunny is the one who brings the baskets and eggs. You may wonder how the Easter bunny is involved with a day to celebrate the resurrection of Christ.

The Easter bunny we know today was influenced by German traditions dating back to the 1500s. German children believed that the Oschter Haws a magical rabbit would leave them a nest of colored eggs at Easter time if they were good. Pennsylvania Dutch settlers brought this tradition to America in the 1700s. Quite a few pagan cultures hold celebrations in the spring. It’s the time of year when plants return to life after being dormant all winter and when animals mate and procreate. These festivities celebrate the renewal of life and promote the fertility of crops, animals, and even people, which was important in these communities. The Saxons believed in a maiden goddess of fertility named Eastre or Eostre (Oestre in Latin) and honored her with a spring festival. Hares and rabbits were considered sacred to Eastre because they are notoriously fertile animals.

In the second century A.D., Christian missionaries tried to convert northern European tribes. To help make Christianity attractive, the missionaries turned pagan festivals into Christian holidays. The pagan Eastre festival occurred around the same time as the Christian celebration marking Christ’s resurrection so the two celebrations blended into one, rabbit and all. This is now all combined into what we celebrate in America as Easter but it is still always the celebration of Christ and his resurrection with the Easter bunny thrown in.

In Africa, Easter is celebrated as a main function of the Christian communities. Hundreds of people assemble in the church building for an Easter Vigil. In most parish churches the Easter Vigil begins at 3pm and finishes at dark, around 6pm.
Christian hymns are accompanied by the beating of drums and, the high-pitched sounds made by women called Kigelegele. Before returning home after the Mass traditional dances are held outside of the church. People then return home to continue their celebrations with customary African food and drinks.

People remain around the church after Mass in some parishes. They sit in their small Christian communities to continue the celebration of eating and drinking, and ceremonial dances and entertainments continue around them. At Easter families come together. They share special food with Christians and non-Christians indulging in boiled or roasted rice with meat or chicken. Easter has a social dimension as well as a spiritual one in Africa.

In Australia Easter is celebrated in a variety of ways because Australia is a country with people from different parts of the world. Children exchange Easter eggs, which are usually made of chocolate. Some are now made from sugar and have little toys inside. The chocolate eggs are available in an egg shape, from tiny little ones to giant ones. Some chocolate eggs are also in the shape of cheeky looking rabbits. The main day of celebration of families of Anglo-Irish backgrounds is Easter Sunday. Some people go to church services and have hot cross buns for breakfast. These are a sweet fruit bun, which may have a cross on top.

The bilby is a native animal in Australia. It is an endangered species. Chocolate manufacturers decided to make Easter bilbies and give some of their profits to help protect these animals from extinction. So in recent years children have started receiving Easter Bilbies and can be compared to the tradition in America of giving chocolate bunnies.
Many families arrange for an Easter hunt in their homes or gardens to see who can find the most eggs on Easter Sunday morning. They then share a meal with their relatives. Traditionally this has consisted of roast lamb, beef or chicken with roasted vegetables like potatoes and carrots.

Easter is celebrated in many ways and candy and gifts may be given. But most agree Easter is the day to remember what Christ did to save us from our sins and give us the opportunity to be forgiving them. I have story I heard once I would like to share with you. It may make us think the next time we get upset over some little thing someone says or does that may upset us.

One day, a man went to visit a church.

He got there early, parked his car, and got out.

Another car pulled up and the driver got out and said, “I always park there! You took my place!”

The visitor went inside for Sunday school, found an empty seat and sat down.

A young lady from the church approached him and stated, “That’s my seat! You took my place!”

The visitor was somewhat distressed by this rude welcome, but said nothing.

After Sunday school, the visitor went into the sanctuary and sat down. Another member walked up to him and said, “That’s where I always sit! You took my place!” The visitor was even more troubled by the way people were acting, but still He said nothing. Later as the congregation was praying for Christ to dwell among them, the visitor stood up, and his appearance began to change. Horrible scars became visible on his hands and on his feet. Someone from the congregation noticed him and called out, “What happened to you?” The visitor replied, as his hat became a crown of thorns, and a tear fell from his eye,
“I TOOK YOUR PLACE!”

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