Today, the 8th of April, is the second day of the Easter long weekend. For Christians, Easter is the most sacred and special period in the religious calendar, marking Jesus’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday last week) and then his crucifixion on Good Friday and His resurrection this coming Sunday. This is also the time when Jews celebrate the important festival of Passover. Like Easter, the date of Passover changes each year because it is based on a lunar calendar. It takes place over a nine-day period.
I was brought up as a Christian so I know the story of Moses and the Exodus from Egypt. The Pharaoh who enslaved the Jews ordered that all their first-born sons be drowned in the river. To save him from that fate, Moses’s natural mother placed him in a basket and set it adrift in the hope he would be delivered to safety. An Egyptian princess found Moses and raised him in the royal household. Years later, when Moses learned who he really was, he made it his mission to save his people from slavery.
When Moses’s pleas to the Pharaoh to release his people were unheeded, he called down plagues upon Egypt – the Nile running red with blood, diseased livestock, boils, hailstorms, etc – and then, finally, on one momentous night, the Angel of Death came to strike down the first-born son of every household – except those of the Israelites who obeyed the instruction to mark their door frames with lamb’s blood. “You killed our kids, our God will kill yours.”
I remember that scene from the movie, Exodus, with the Jewish families huddled together as the Angel of Death passed over their houses. After that, Pharaoh released them and they made their way across the desert. Here’s the story told by a Jew. It’s 4.5 minutes
Of course, these days for many people Easter is just another long weekend, a time for short holidays and Easter eggs in the park. I guess we all know that the festivals of Passover and Easter are now inextricably mixed up with the Pagan festival Ostara to mark the spring equinox, when the days begin to grow longer, bulbs flower and the trees are full of blossom. Lambs gambolling in the fields and chicks and baby bunnies adorn Easter greeting cards. It’s a celebration of the end of winter and the beginning of new life.
And in their own way, Easter and Passover do the same thing. They both celebrate a time of darkness and a new hope.
In the Northern Hemisphere, anyway. And since we’ve inherited all our holidays from our European ancestors, we carry on the northern tradition despite the fact we’re easing into autumn.
Here endeth the lesson. But since this post is about religion, I’ll leave you with this little story.
Mary was testing children in her Dublin Sunday school class to see if they understood the concept of getting to heaven.
She asked them, ‘If I sold my house and my car, had a big garage sale and gave all my money to the church, would that get me into heaven?’
‘NO!’ the children answered.
‘If I cleaned the church every day, mowed the garden, and kept everything tidy, would that get me into heaven?’
Again, the answer was ‘NO!’
”If I gave sweets to all the children, and loved my husband, would that get me into heaven?’
Again, they all answered ‘NO!’
Mary was bursting with pride in them. They obviously understood. She continued, ‘Then how can I get into heaven?’
Little Johnny shouted out: ‘YUV GOTTA BE FOOK’N DEAD.’
Have a wonderful spring equinox, however you celebrate.
All images by Midjourney