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THE DAYS OF EASTER

Shrove Tuesday

Shrove Tuesday is the last Tuesday before Lent. It is a day of feasting. In France, it is called Mardis Gras or Fat Tuesday. In some countries, people stop eating fat during Lent. Perhaps you think fat would not be hard to give up, but fat is used to fry delicious treats, such as doughnuts. On Fat Tuesday, people use up all the fat in their cupboards. In Germany and Austria, people cook crullers in the fat. Crullers are thick doughnuts. In Finland, people cook a pancake called blini.

Some people stop eating eggs during Lent. What do they do before Lent to use up all the eggs in their refrigerator? They make pancakes! This is why Shrove Tuesday is also called Pancake Tuesday.

People who live in Olney, a town in England, celebrate this day with a special event. They have had a pancake race on every Shrove Tuesday for over 500 years. Everyone gathers in the center of town. The racers hold frying pans with hot pancakes still cooking in them. At the word "Go!" they dash to the church, flipping their pancakes as they run. They must flip them at least three times before they reach the church.

Ash Wednesday

The first day of Lent is called Ash Wednesday. Long ago on this day, Christians dressed in their old clothes. They rubbed ashes on their foreheads. They wanted to show God that they were sorry for the wrong things they had done in the past year. Some Christians today have ashes put on their foreheads at church on Ash Wednesday.

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday is during the last week of Lent. It is one week before Easter Sunday. On Palm Sunday, Jesus rode into the city of Jerusalem on a donkey. The followers of Jesus who lived in Jerusalem were happy to see him again. The road to Jerusalem was lined with palm trees. As people saw Jesus, they took leaves from the palm trees and placed them on the road. The palm formed a special carpet for Jesus. Some people waved palm leaves when Jesus passed by. They shouted greetings to him.

Today on Palm Sunday, many Christians go to church. They hold palm leaves to remind them of the time Jesus rode into Jerusalem. They welcome Jesus again into their hearts.

In some countries, it is hard to get palm leaves, so people hold willow or yew branches, or flowers. In Europe, Palm Sunday is called Willow, Yew, or Blossom Sunday.

Good Friday

Good Friday is five days after Palm Sunday. This is a sad day for Christians. It was on this day many years ago that Jesus died. People thought that they would never see Jesus again.

Why is this sad day called "good"? For many years, it was called "God's Friday." God's Friday sounds like Good Friday. This may be the way that Good Friday got its name. In other countries, this day is called Big Friday, Holy Friday, or Silent Friday.

Around the world, Christians have church services on Good Friday. In Spain, Mexico, and many South American countries, there are parades each day of the last week of Lent. The Good Friday parade is the saddest one. The parade of people winds through the dark streets early in the morning. Drums beat and the church bells ring slowly. People in the parade carry large statues of Jesus and his mother, Mary. People crowd the streets to watch the procession go by. They sing sad songs. They sometimes carry candles to brighten the darkness. Everyone is sad on Good Friday, but in two more days it will be Easter Sunday, a time to be happy again.

Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday is a day for rejoicing. It was on Easter Sunday that the friends of Jesus learned that Jesus was alive again. They went to the cave where Jesus had been buried. They found that the huge rock, which blocked the entrance to the cave, had been rolled away. The cave was empty. Jesus was alive again! He promised new life to everyone who believed in him.

Many Christians celebrate the promise of Jesus by going to church on Easter Sunday. They wear their best clothes. Churches are filled with flowers and candlelight. Bells ring out the happiness people feel. Everyone sings joyful hymns. Christians celebrate because Jesus has shown them God's power and love.

Easter Monday

Spring is a time for rain showers, but Easter Monday can be a wet day for other reasons! Long ago, people believed that water was special during Easter. Girls washed their faces in streams or in the morning dew. they believed that this would make them beautiful!

In parts of Europe, easter Monday was a day for pushing friends into the water. Because of this, in Hungary, this day was called Ducking Monday. Today in Hungary, boys sprinkle girls with perfume or perfumed water. They wish one another good luck. The girls must reward the boys who spray them. They give them coins or Easter eggs.

In England, a favorite custom on Easter Monday and Tuesday was called "lifting" or "heaving." Young men went from home to home in the village. They carried a chair decorated with flowers. When a girl or a woman sat in the chair, they lifted her into the air three times. Being lifted was supposed to bring her good luck. She thanked the young men with money and a kiss! On the Tuesday following Easter Monday, it was the women's turn to lift the men in a chair!

How did this custom start? Some people think that it started as a wish that the crops would grow tall. Others believe that the custom began as a reminder that Jesus was lifted from the grave and taken to heaven.

Go back to the Easter page.