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A holiday guide designed to give insight to Easter and the Lenten holidays...

Easter Fullervision Style 2006

 days until Easter...

Lenten Holiday-- Components
--Mardi Gras ("Fat Tuesday") (February 28, 2006)
The Lenten "season" begins on Fat Tuesday, a day of sin, vice and indulgence. The point is to be as ethically questionable as possible before the Lenten season begins and piety is a must. In the United States, New Orleans, Louisiana is the place where Mardi Gras is celebrated most heavily. (Logistical problems resulting from the continuing aftermath of Hurricane Katrina may, however, hamper this year's celebration.) Traditions at the New Orleans Mardi Gras Carnival include wearing masks and/or costumes and throwing beads at women who expose their breasts in public. Numerous parades take place in the days leading up to Mardi Gras. Because of its reputation for sin and vice, it ranks among my least favorite holidays.
--Ash Wednesday (March 1, 2006)
This is the day that the Lenten holiday begins. In Roman Catholic churches, the faithful approach the priest during the Ash Wednesday mass and receive a mark of the Christian Cross on their forehead, marked with ashes blessed by the priest. It is the first day of the Lenten period.
--Lent
Lent is a period of 40 days, not including Sundays, leading up to the Easter holiday. It is most significantly honored by those in the Roman Catholic Church. The period is a time of penitence and fasting. Catholics are forbidden by church doctrine to eat "flesh meat" on Fridays. (Fish is excluded from the exception, which has given rise to the Friday "fish fry dinner" in parts of the country.) Catholics are also expected to give up some sort of vice during the period. The holy period's more technical aspects are generally not recognized by Protestants because it has no real significance to the Christian history; it was arbitrarily established by church doctrine and tradition.
--Holy Week: Palm Sunday (April 9, 2006)
Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week, the last week before Easter. It marks the day when Jesus entered Jerusalem and was greeted with palms.
--Holy Thursday / Maundy Thursday (April 13, 2006)
The holiday can be referred to by either title, but it commemorates the day Jesus Christ marked his Last Supper with his disciples. He predicted, accurately, that Judas Iscariot would betray him. From this Last Supper, we have gained the tradition of bread symbolizing the Body of Christ and wine (or in the Methodist Church, grape juice) as the Blood of Christ. Biblical references tie the holiday to the Jewish Passover feast.
--Good Friday (April 14, 2006)
The most sacred and holy of all days on the Christian calendar.The account is described in all four Biblical gospels. Christ was betrayed to the Romans by Judas, who received 30 silver coins in return, a gift he ended up returning on account of guilty conscience that would result in Judas's suicide. Christ was brought before the people of Jerusalem in a desperate attempt by Pontius Pilate to save Christ's life; however, the high priests convinced the mob to free Barabbas, a notorious rioter and killer. (Some wanted him punished as a heretic, while many others wanted to see the prophecy of Isaiah fulfilled.) With that, the Roman guards beat and mocked Christ and paraded him through the streets with a crown of thorns on his head and a cross on his back. The Romans hanged Christ on that cross, and he was left to die. Instead of the usual strategy of breaking the dead man's legs, Roman guards instead pierced his side in anticipation of the possibility that he would rise. After his death, Christ's body was transported to a tomb.
--Holy Saturday (April 15, 2006)
This is the day that Christ's body laid in the tomb.
--Easter Sunday (April 16, 2006)
Easter Sunday marks the day that Jesus Christ walked out of the sepulchre and was resurrected. The first to witness Jesus Christ alive was Mary Magdalene, followed eventually by his disciples.

Excerpt from the Old Farmer's Almanac on Easter:
This Christian holy day celebrates the resurrection of Christ after his Crucifixion. It was probably the earliest of the church's annual festivals and was fused with elements of pagan spring festivals celebrating new life. Folk customs attached to the festival date from pre-Christian times. Eggs, traditionally forbidden during Lent, symbolize new life. The Easter Bunny recalls the hare, the Egyptian symbol of fertility. Easter may have derived its name from the Saxon goddess Eostre, whose feast was celebrated each spring at about this time. Or it may have derived from the word oster, meaning "rising." Due to different methods of calculation, the Eastern and Western churches usually celebrate the feast on different days.

Other Holidays that Generally Coincide with Easter
--Passover. This is a Jewish holiday that marked the miracle of a plague dating back to the time of Moses. Believers were instructed to place a strip of sheep's blood over their doors to prevent the plague from killing that family's first-born son. The holiday usually coincides with Easter, but irregularities in the Jewish and Christian calendars mean that it is not always the case. (Last year, for instance, Passover fell an entire month after Easter.) Jews eat unleavened bread during this time period. Jesus and his disciples were celebrating a Passover feast at the Last Supper.
--Dyngus Day. This is a Polish holiday always celebrated the day after Easter. Girls often whack their male suitors with pussy willows and boys retalliate by splashing the girls with water. Other than that, it's generally a holiday of song, dance, and polka.

Other Holidays and Important Dates that Occur during or near the Easter season
--Vernal Equinox (First Day of Spring)
(March 20, 2006)
The vernal equinox occurs at 1:26 PM this year, marking the crossover from the winter season into spring.
--St. Patrick's Day (March 17, 2006)
The traditional Irish festival with talk of leprechauns, pots o' gold and rainbows. Celebrates the Dark Ages-era saint who, according to legend, drove all the snakes out of Ireland and spread word of the Holy Trinity via the shamrock.
--April Fool's Day (April 1, 2006)
The day of pranks, false rumors, and faux news. The one day of the year you can lie and get away with it.
--Daylight Savings Time ("Spring Ahead") (April 2, 2006)
Barring a legislative change of heart, this will be the last year that Daylight Savings Time begins in April. Beginning in 2007, the change will occur in mid-March in the United States.

The Legend of the Easter Bunny
Unlike his counterpart, Santa Claus, the mythical Easter Bunny character is relatively unknown. He often goes by the name "Peter Cottontail" (much like Santa goes by "Kris Kringle"). He is believed to originate from the rabbit being a traditional symbol for spring and fertility ("multiplying like rabbits"). He is known to distribute colored eggs and candy (namely jelly beans, chocolate-- including the now (in?)famous Cadbury Creme Eggs-- and Marshmallow Peeps) in grass-filled baskets to children the night before Easter. (Plastic grass is normally used.) The baskets are hidden around the house for the children to find on Easter morning. Beyond that, there is no real consensus. He is generally believed to be a giant human-sized rabbit with white or a light pastel yellow or pink color fur. His home is completely unknown.

Celebrations of the Secular Easter (The Easter Egg)
The most notable celebration of the secular Easter holiday is the "Easter Egg Hunt." If weather permits around Easter, plastic eggs are assorted around an open yard and kids go around on a scavenger hunt of sorts looking for them. (Plastic eggs hold up much better than their real counterparts.)
Real Easter eggs are pretty easy to make. The most crucial part of the process is that the eggs need to be hard-boiled first. After boiling is done, a mixture of vinegar and food coloring is prepared. If it is desired to have writing on the eggs, a white crayon will repel the coloring agent. Steep your hard-boiled eggs into the colored vinegar for a few seconds and then pull them out and refrigerate. Eggs do spoil, so don't make the eggs too far ahead of time.

Why Easter Changes its Date Every Year
Unlike other Christian holidays, based on the solar calendar, Easter is based upon a lunar calendar, the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. This could land as early as a few days after March 20 (like it did last year) or as late as April 25 (it landed close to that date few years back). The reason is because it is mentioned in the Book of Matthew that the Last Supper took place during Passover.

Easter Dinner
Easter Dinner is usually similar to the Christmas dinner, a ham as a main course with various side dishes.

On Radio and Television
ABC:
ABC Television will be airing three specials this Easter season, the most of any network.
--The Ten Commandments (Original). The five-hour 1956 cinematic epic starring Charlton Heston as Moses and Yul Brenner as Pharaoh Rameses II will air Saturday, April 15 at 7:00 PM.
--The Ten Commandments (Remake). To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the original film, ABC commissioned a miniseries remake starring Dougray Scott as Moses and a cast that includes Omar Sharif. Airs April 10 and 11 at 9:00 PM.
--It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown. What would a holiday be without a Peanuts special? Tuesday, April 11 at 8:00 PM.
NBC: NBC's programming consists only of its regularly scheduled sports programming, including NHL hockey (final weekend before playoffs) and Arena Football (Kansas City @ Colorado).
CBS: After several years of airing "Jesus," a 2000 movie about the life of Christ starring Jeremy Sisto, CBS has abandoned all Easter programming. Instead, they're airing a miniseries about deadly viruses, bioterrorism and government conspiracy. Wow, what a STUPID, STUPID move by the same network that thinks Katie Couric is a legitimate news anchor. Dumb@$$es.
Fox: No scheduled programming.
WB/UPN: As these networks are winding down operations, no programming is scheduled.
Cable: ESPN has its regularly scheduled Sunday Night Baseball-- San Francisco @ Los Angeles.
TBS is airing back-to-back Lord of the Rings movies on Easter night.
Religious networks: One place where Easter won't be skipped is the religious networks. Check listings for Easter programming. The first Easter and Good Friday masses conducted by Pope Benedict XVI can be seen on EWTN.


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