Well, Holy Week is winding down. If you’re a Christian, you know what I’m talking about. The days between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday are celebrated with fasting, feasting and worship. And, while you may know that some days are more significant than others, you may not know that they have specific names. Some of them make sense, others not so much. Like
- Palm Sunday _ Okay, this ones pretty straightforward. Jesus gets to Jerusalem, sends two of the boys into town, telling them they’ll find a donkey. They are to bring it to him and if anyone says anything to tell them “the Lord” needs it. He rides the donkey into town and all the people wave palm branches because that was how you greeted a king. That’s nothing new, we all heard that story in Sunday School. What you may not know is that, after Palm Sunday, the palms are burned to make the ashes used for next year’s Lent observance. That is, if your church does Lent.
- Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are called Holy Monday, Holy…, you get the idea. Not that much special going on here. In the synoptic gospels, this is where Jesus went all bad-ass and threw the money changers out of the temple, cursed a fig tree and made it die, busted on the Pharisees and told a buttload of parables. Although, I have heard something about the Last Supper occurring on Wednesday night instead of Thursday, but I don’t know about that.
- Maundy Thursday _ Some people call this Holy Thursday, and, traditionally, it’s the day the Last Supper occurred, followed by Jesus going to the Garden to pray (and getting pissed at the disciples for falling asleep), His arrest and trial. That part I get, but what the hell is “maundy”? Being curious, I poked around online and, supposedly, it comes from an English background, which makes sense because only the Anglicans, Episcopals and Methodists (sometimes) use it. There are a couple of ideas where it comes from, one being the Latin word “mandatum” from the phrase “Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos” (“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you”). Another is that it came from the “maundsor” baskets in which the King of England distributed alms to the poor. All of which makes the meaning of this term clear as mud. Oh well.
- Good Friday _ I’m guessing if you asked Jesus, “good” isn’t the word He’d pick for this day, seeing as it’s the day He was flogged and crucified. It’s safe to say Good Friday probably was not His all-time favorite day. I tried to find a meaning for the term and all I could come up with is some lame-ass crap about how it’s called that because of all the good that came about that day. That may be true, but I just don’t think that’s the origin of this name.
- Holy Saturday _ Not much going on Saturday, either, though in some traditions, Easter observance begins Saturday at sundown.
- Easter Sunday _ This is the big day. The day we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus with candy and bunnies and eating until we can’t mo…, wait a minute, that’s not right. Well, the eating part has its roots in the church. Easter is a traditional feast day in the church and it’s also the end of Lent. So, not only has a feast been the order of the day, gorging yourself has also been a big part of the whole thing. But, that still leaves the candy and bunnies, doesn’t it? Well, that relates to the origin of the word “Easter” itself. The word “Easter” derives from the Old English word “Eostre”, a month of the Germanic calendar used prior to the adoption of the Julian calendar in use today. “Eostre” was actually a pagan goddess (possibly even a fertility goddess. Wouldn’t the Baptists love that?) and, somehow, Germanic customs involving eggs and bunnies got wrapped up in the Christian feast day celebrating the Resurrection. Probably, the early church hijacked the pagan celebration because people wouldn’t quit it and pick up the Christian one. They did that a lot back then.
- Easter Monday _ When I was a kid, we didn’t get Good Friday as a holiday, we got the Monday after Easter, or Easter Monday. It really has no special significance in the United States outside of a regional one. In North Carolina, the state I was born, raised and still reside in, the Monday holiday started in the early 20th century when state employees were the day off to attend the annual NC State/Wake Forest baseball game. This started in 1935 and went until 1988, when the game was moved to Good Friday. The holiday moved, too.
So, we have a holiday named after a pagan fertility goddess that commemorates the death and resurrection of our Savior, celebrated by a mix of pagan and Christian customs and possibly even a ballgame or two. Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?