Easter is the most popular time of the year for Australians
Easter is the most popular time of the year for Australians to go to church. The most common services are on Good Friday morning and Easter Sunday morning, and churches of every variety and denomination will generally focus their services on the simple presentation of the Gospel message. The largest Christian denominations in Australia include Catholic, Anglican, Uniting Church, Presbyterian and Baptist – and almost every town or suburb will have one if not multiple churches with Easter services for the local community to take part in. You can also find a church with Easter services by visiting the Church Near You website.
The meaning of Easter
Easter is the oldest of the Christian festivals. It is celebrated approximately at the end of the first quarter of the calendar year although its date changes depending on the lunar cycle.
In her book, The Liturgical Year, Joan Chittister writes,
“Easter the scholars tell us, is the oldest feast in the history of Christianity, but it really only came into focus as a distinct celebration in the late second century… The truth is that Easter, Resurrection, has been celebrated in the church every Sunday since the first week after the resurrection itself.” – Joan Chittister, The Liturgical Year
Australia has a unique Easter compared to the UK where many of our Easter traditions came from, due to our location in the Southern Hemisphere of the globe. Easter, which in the Northern Hemisphere is a celebration of the beginning of spring and new life, takes place during autumn in Australia. So an Australian Easter celebrates harvests instead of rejoicing in the coming of spring. The religious aspect of Easter remains the same, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ as recounted in the Bible’s New Testament, and continues to remain one of the most prevalent holidays in the Christian calendar.
Easter in Australia – and around much of the western world – falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon that occurs on or after the March equinox. This puts Easter Sunday between the end of March and the end of April, depending on the year. In total, Easter is a celebration that spans over a 50-day period. It begins with Ash Wednesday and ends with Easter Sunday with many Easter-related events in between.
The season of Lent
In the Christian tradition, Lent is the season of around six weeks that leads up to Easter. It is a period of various forms of fasting or personal reflection that depends on the customs of the denomination and culture. Unlike Easter, in Australia’s culture Lent is not generally recognised outside the churches.
For most, the fasting is simple and minimal to the extent that you may even find that the person you work beside is not eating chocolate or cake or meat as their partial sacrificial fast. Others go much further and partake of only a meagre subsistence diet.
Lent has been a part of church life since fairly early in Christian history, although not as early as Easter has been observed. It is not governed by any ordinance in the Christian writings that we know as the Bible. Instead it exists today due to tradition and by a religious passion to honour the season leading up to the Easter weekend and what Christians see as the ‘sacrifice’ of Jesus.
The word ‘Lent’ came into use in medieval times. It was the word in the English vernacular that meant ‘spring’. Before then, Lent was referred to by the Latin word quadragesima with variations between languages. This word relates to the forty days that Jesus fasted after his baptism and the forty days (minus Sundays in some churches) of Lent.
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