Easter traditionsmake season fun

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 22, 2000

There were three songs that Mrs. Johnson's elementary music classes at W O Parmer sang long ago during this time of year.

As the open windows of the musty old auditorium let in refreshing breezes, the sweet scent of spring flowers wafted in. Mrs. Johnson would play on the big black grand piano as the students sang with gusto "Peter Cottontail", "Easter Parade", and the rousing hymn

"He Lives."

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Those three songs were, and are, not only fun to sing; they also reflect many of our traditions, both secular and sacred, that we celebrate each Easter season.

"Easter Parade"

Every year, Moms love to deck out their little ones in Easter finery.

Little girls, even the ones who normally prefer only jeans and tees, are clad in the frilliest of dresses; lace, ruffles and pretty pastels abound, often right down to their undies.

Lace-trimmed anklets are

"de rigeur" to wear with the patent shoes, and a charming flower and ribbon-trimmed hat often completes milady's outfits, along with pristine white gloves.

The little boys look very handsome in their dress-up shorts outfits with matching bow ties, or appear as a miniature of their dads in

scaled-down suits and ties, unruly cowlicks slicked into place.

Parents rush to get the camera,once a Brownie box , now a sophisticated SLR, to take photos of the kids while they are looking so handsome, so pretty, so fresh and springlike in their brand-new clothes. Indeed, they look as if they could be miniatures of the grand ladies and gentlemen of the "Easter Parade" immortalized in Irving Berlin's famous song.

Over a century ago, a tradition was started in the city of New York during the Easter season.

After winters that were often long, dreary and chock-full of ice and snow, New Yorkers were anxious to get out and enjoy the pleasant spring weather.

They also enjoyed the opportunity to show off new spring finery, casting aside the heavy coats and itchy woolen clothing of winter.

Well-to-do families began the habit of strolling up and down the fashionable Park Avenue district, enjoying the fine weather

and the chance to see, and to be seen , and soon it became an Easter tradition.

These ladies, in their beautiful new gowns and elaborate hats, and the gentlemen, sporting handsomely tailored new suits and bowler hats inspired Berlin to write the song "Easter Parade".

Today we still celebrate the arrival of this lovely season by dressing up our little ones, if not ourselves, and putting on our own "Easter Parade."

"Petter Cottontail"

Every year, children line up in malls and shopping centers to have their pictures taken with a large, fuzzy fellow with long ears and a pink nose: the Easter Bunny, often known as "Peter Cottontail". Everyone knows that he brings beautifully colored eggs and all sort of goodies to children on Easter. Little ones look forward to opening their eyes on Easter morning to discover a basket full of candy and toys left by the #1 Bunny himself.

But how did rabbits and eggs become a part of our Easter tradition in the first place?

It goes back many, many years to the pre-Christian era.

In ancient times, eggs were a symbol of new life and new beginnings.

The tiny embryo of the baby chick develops within the shell, finally pushing its way out and into the world.

And we all are familiar with the amazing fertility of the rabbit population.

Again, the image of the bunny became a symbol of new life. Even before the birth of Jesus, people had begun to recognize their inability to ensure life's continuation and their need for someone other than themselves to depend upon.

Over the years, legends about rabbits and eggs and the good luck, fertility, and longevity they could bring to people spread and grew in popularity.

Today, we still enjoy the image of this magical bunny, as we organize egg hunts and create charming baskets for our little ones.

The song "Peter Cottontail" has become a beloved part of the folklore surrounding this part of our Easter tradition, with its image of a happy, hip-hopping rabbit bringing joy to the girls and boys.

"He Lives"

Many church congregations sing the lovely hymn "He Lives" not only at Easter, but year round.

It's a joyous reminder of the sacred side of this holiday.

Without the events of Easter morning, there would be no basis for the Christian faith.

Many religions will point out to you the tomb of their founder.

The Christian faith also points to a tomb, an empty one;

Christians believe the crucified body of Christ rose again, conquering the grave and the power of evil and sin, and offering the assurance of a new spiritual life on earth

and eternal life in Heaven to believers.

For centuries, many traditions celebrating Easter have been a part of Christian celebrations.

In England, hot cross buns were eaten on Good Friday (the day marking Christ's crucifixion); the cross of icing on top reminded believers of Christ's suffering on the Cross.

The Lenten season is celebrated in many churches between Ash Wednesday and Easter as a time of reflection on Christ's love and sacrifice.

Traditionally, the believer gives up

something dear to that person

in order to celebrate Christ's sacrifice on the cross during Lent.

The Thursday before Easter is "Maundy Thursday", pointing out Jesus' arrest and imprisonment.

Protestant churches often celebrate the Lord's Supper on this day.

Good Friday observes the death of Christ.

In some churches, mourning services are held to remember the time of darkness just before Christ's death.

Then comes the glorious dawning of Easter Sunday, with many congregations starting the day

celebrating the New Covenant between God and man with sunrise services. Often they will share in a fellowship breakfast, a celebratory feast to mark the special day.

Special musical programs are also often presented during this season to celebrate the gift of a Savior.

He lives . . .for Christ is risen.

He is risen indeed!

It is certainly a time for singing, and "He Lives" is a perfect song for the occasion.

May you all have a happy, safe, and blessed Easter with your family and friends as you celebrate the many traditions of this season.