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Easter, En Todo El Mundo

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V ibrant, rich pellets of dye sizzle in various cups of potent vinegar, creating everyday colors like red, blue, orange and yellow. You reach for one of your newly hard-boiled eggs, gently place it on top of an egg dipper and slowly lower it into one of the fully dissolved dyes. How long will you let the egg submerge within the warm, stained vinegar? Will you double dip within multiple colors to create a funky multicolored egg or will you draw a festive design upon the shell? Are your eggs fully prepared and completed for the early hunt tomorrow?

Once waking up in the morning, the search is on. Where did the Easter Bunny hide the eggs you crafted so impeccably a few nights before? You may spot a pastel violet egg propped against one of your favorite pieces of artwork, or a misty blue plastic egg hidden within your piano. Nestled next to your mantle may even be a lovely Easter basket overflowing with shiny fake grass, chocolates and a dozen plastic eggs filled with yummy morsels.

It’s Easter Sunday, the day of celebration referred to as “…Christ’s victory over sin and death brought about by his suffering, death and resurrection,” by Intermountain Catholic. Some Christian North Americans celebrate Easter solely through rituals involving the Easter bunny, while others incorporate church and Sunday Mass.

Aubrey Langley, a 19-year-old Catholic American, celebrates Easter Sunday through the Easter Bunny, as well as church services.  “Sometimes we go to Mass on Sunday, other days we go on Saturday. We dye eggs the week before Easter and then, when I was younger, our parents would hide our Easter baskets around to find,” Langley says.

Although Discovery News states the Easter Bunny has roots dating all the way back to the 13th-century, the cotton-tailed animal is, in fact, not related to Jesus’ resurrection. Regardless, it seems as if the commercial route of the bunny has taken over the traditional celebration of the Christian holiday. Has this common practice spread and overwhelmed other areas in similar ways, or are we the only rabbit-loving country?

“People actually crucify themselves in Ecuador just to feel the pain that Jesus felt,” Perez states gravely.

Easter Sunday is not only a one day celebration, but is a part of the large 90-day celebration of Easter, including 40 days of the Lenten season leading to Easter and the concluding 50 days following Easter. A sizeable amount of countries observe Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lenten season, with illustrious festivals and tradition.

Ecuador, a South-American country that is quite close to home, bustles with a majority of Roman Catholics. While some individuals celebrate Easter Sunday with Easter eggs, Easter baskets and Mass, the largest festivities are centered on Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.

Semana Santa, or Holy Week, occurs in areas such as Quito, Ecuador and tends to draw in thousands of observers.  Semana Santa lasts an entire week, often taking place the week before Easter Sunday, and is dedicated to the Christian faith and the celebration of Easter.

Ernesto Quintana, a 69-year-old Ecuadorian Protestant, says these seven days are a time devoted to the church. “As Protestants, our celebrations consist in assistance to the church, reflection and renewing our relationship and devotion to Jesus,” Quintana says.

During Semana Santa, priests will lead massive parades with various churchgoers following attentively. According to Renato Perez, an Ecuadorian chemical engineering student at Ohio University, the priests burn incense and throw holy water among the crowd.

A large golden float carrying likenesses of the Virgin Mary and Jesus can also be spotted, along with loud marching bands. Various other spectacles are seen, like the noteworthy nazarenos, who can be identified by their white cone shaped headgear and long white capes. It is at the end of the parade that churchgoers will attend mass and have ashes applied to their foreheads in a standard Ash Wednesday fashion, says Perez.

As if this isn’t already an overwhelming amount of activities in comparison with the U.S., it is also shockingly common for parade participants to crucify themselves during Semana Santa. “People actually crucify themselves in Ecuador just to feel the pain that Jesus felt,” Perez states gravely.

Although many of the events that take place during Holy Week do have a solemn tone, there are numerous festive happenings that follow. Referred to by Perez as the “carnival,” Ecuadorians will walk around the city throwing eggs, water balloons and flour at one another. “It’s just having fun,” Perez says while sporting a large, goofy smile in remembrance of past carnivals.

In other countries like Nigeria, the celebration of Easter is observed to be a smaller event, often celebrated during the weekend of Easter Sunday. However, even though the celebration does not involve grand parades and carnivals like Ecuador, it is definitely not one to be overlooked.

“For the longest period of time I would go to an American church and I would be dressed in full Nigerian attire.” Odemena reminisces.

Within Nigeria, Ash Wednesday is quite miniscule in comparison to Easter Sunday. As exclaimed by Ogadinma Odemena, a spunky second-generation Nigerian, “In Nigeria, Easter Sunday is HUGE.”

“They get their Easter clothes made with silk and all of these designs in them. It’s actually pretty cool. The designs are really unique and, unless it’s from the same family, you really wont see any two clothes that are the exact same.” Odemena raves enthusiastically.

Not having Easter clothes is a large taboo within Nigerian culture, showing the honored importance not only of the holiday, but also of the religion itself.

On Easter Sunday, individuals will dress up in their new Easter attire and head to Mass, which lasts a total of three hours. During Mass, the church fills with abundant singing and rejoicing, along with the throwing of holy water by the priest in an effort to cleanse the people for the coming of Jesus. “Mass goes on as usual and then that’s when everyone leaves and starts cooking everything to get ready for the parties. Everybody will be singing while cooking and getting ready,” Odemena says with a light-hearted chuckle.

Meat is always a large staple for Easter dinner, along with delicacies like snails, which are added into the soup. All of the food, prepared by the mother and daughter(s), will then be taken to a nearby party and shared, similar to that of a potluck. “Parties will start late. They’ll bring the host of the party, do a blessing over the food, everybody eats and socializes and then they dance all night long,” says Odemena.

Odemena’s parents maintained particular Nigerian Easter customs for quite some time after moving to the United States. “For the longest period of time I would go to an American church and I would be dressed in full Nigerian attire.” Odemena reminisces.

Nigerians around Odemena’s home in Ohio would also gather together on Easter Sunday and hold a giant party similar to those held in Nigeria.

Although these traditions were kept for a while, Odemena’s family no longer wears silk clothes to Easter Mass and they irregularly attend the Easter parties. “I feel like my mom has kind of Americanized in that sense. We didn’t use to do Easter egg hunts until my siblings grew up a little and asked, ‘Where’s the Easter bunny?’” he says in a disheartened tone, “I think the only negative thing is that it’s not so much a choice that my mother chose to stop doing it, but that people gave us weird looks and would make fun of us for our clothes the next day in school. So we ended up changing a few things.”

“I think that a lot of people don’t know that it’s supposed to be a religious holiday but that doesn’t really bother me. If you celebrate it religiously that’s cool, but if you don’t then that’s cool too,” Langley casually concludes.

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