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Home > Religious Festivals > Christian Festivals > Holy Week
Holy Week
Palm Sunday

Palm SundayIt is celebrated in memory of Jesus` triumphant entry into Jerusalem and the temple where the crowds placed palms at his feet. Holy Week is the final week of Jesus Christ`s life, most tragic yet the most triumphal part of His life. Christians observe it as a week of devout observance, commemorating the Passion and Jesus` death on the cross.

Holy Week is a very sacred to the Christians. Christians observe the death and resurrection of Lord Jesus Christ who took away the sins of the world. Purpose of Holy Week is to re-enact, relive, and feel the passion of Jesus Christ. Important days of Holy Week are named, Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. In the Eastern Church, it is called the "Great week".

A mock siege is enacted in memory of this entry and the driving out of the traffickers. Caliphas, the High Priest of the Jews, and Annas, his powerful father-in-law, viewed this popular enthusiasm with considerable misgivings. They too, like good Jews, had believed in the advent of the Messiah. But, their conception of the Messiah was of a powerful king and soldier, born of a sacerdotal family in Jerusalem, riding sword in hand on a fiery steed, striking terror and dismay into the ranks of the Romans and scattering them before him like chaff in the wind. But, instead the Messiah came, mounted on an ass, followed by a motley crowd of palm-leaf wavers, a Nazarene, born in the impecunious family of a carpenter! And when the crowd, under the leadership of Jesus, cleared the temple of the money-changers and pigeon-sellers, and when Jesus declared that the priests of the temple had converted his Father`s House into a den of thieves, his fate was sealed. For the High Priest and his minions had vested interests in the profitable trade that went on in the temple precincts.

Pilgrims from all over the Jewish world came with their alms to the temple, and every Jew had to buy an animal or a bird sold at the shrine and offer it as a sacrifice. The profit in this trade was enormous, and so was the margin on the exchange when the foreign money brought by the pilgrims of the Dispersion was converted into the currency of Jerusalem. On all these transactions, the High Priest took a percentage of the profits. By stopping the trade in the temple, Jesus hit at the stomach of the High Priest. This started an inevitable collision course with the religious and political authorities.

Among Syrian Christians it is known as Hosanna or Osanna ( meaning: we pray). The observance includes a procession of members of the congregation carrying palms, representing the palm branches and the crowd scattered in front of Jesus as he rode into the city. They sing Hosannas while moving around the church. The liturgy also includes readings recounting the suffering and death of Jesus.
The priest distributes the consecrated feast of the tender palm fronds. There are also preparations of sweetmeats of rice flour with coconut kernel inside. In the Western church, it must always fall on one of the 35 dates between March 15 and April 18. Hence, the feast is also called movable feast.

Palm Sunday was celebrated in Jerusalem as early as the 4th century and in the West by the 8th century.

Maundy Thursday

Maundy ThursdayOn the night of this Thursday, Jesus ate his last supper with his disciples in celebration of the Jewish feast of the Passover.

The word "maundy" originates from the command given by Christ at the Last Supper, that we should love one another. Christians remember `Maundy Thursday" as the day of the Last Supper. It is the day when Jesus washed the feet of all his disciples thereby establishing a ceremony known as the Eucharist. Jesus was betrayed by Judas in the Garden of Gethsemane, on the night of "Maundy Thursday `.

To commemorate this occasion, Roman Catholic Church services conduct a ceremony in which the priest washes the feet of 12 people. Some other churches also have foot-washing ceremonies as part of their Maundy Thursday services.

Sacrament of Holy Communion is based on the Last Supper. The Thursday night is spent in prayer and vigil. Elegiac verses of Christ`s agony in the garden of Gethsemane are chanted. It is believed that he knew what was coming and in his agony, he sweated drops of blood. Among Syrian Christians, this day is known as Pesaha after Jewish Pesach (Passover).

Good Friday

Good FridayGood Friday is a day of mourning in memory of the Crucifixion. Christ`s suffering and death on the cross is remembered. It marks Jesus` resurrection and falls towards the end of the Holy Week. Initially, it was called God`s Friday. "Good Friday" evolved from "God" or "God`s Friday". Good Friday occurs between the March 20th and April 23rd for the decade (2001 to 2010).

At 3 PM, the time when Jesus is believed to have died on the cross, a ceremony is performed in memory of taking the body from the cross and in some churches ceremonial burial takes place. No bells are rung on this day and a fast is observed.

Easter Sunday

Easter SundayIt is the Sunday after Good Friday. In AD 325, the church council of Nicaea fixed the date of Easter on the first Sunday following the Paschal full moon. The Pashcal Term (14th or 15th of the month of Nisan in the Jewish calendar) also marks pesach, or Passover. The Paschal Moon is the Spring counterpart of the "Harvest Moon". It is the full moon occurring near the autumnal or vernal equinox, 21st March. Therefore, Easter Sunday moves between March 22 and April 25.

The Resurrection of Christ occurred at the time of the Jewish feast of Passover (called Pesachin Hebrew). The term Easter was first used when the Saxons introduced Christianity. Prior to this time the Saxons had held an annual feast in honour of the ancient Teutonic goddess of spring, Eostre. A month corresponding to April was dedicated to her. The name was transferred to the Christian observance of Christ`s resurrection. This was proposed by the 8th-century English scholar, St. Bede.

On Easter, Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, as it is told in the Bible. This holy day celebrates the triumph of life over death.

Easter is at the end of the Lenten season, which covers a 46-day period that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends with Easter. Children buy Easter eggs made of marzipan, sold in confectionery stores. Easter is a joyous and happy day, the world over. Easter rabbit, a symbol of fertility and Easter eggs are with bright colors to represent the sunlight of spring.

One of the springtime festivals, Easter represents the true spirit of the season. It expresses rejuvenation, energy and brightness. The celebration of Easter Sunday is the perfect time to enjoy with chocolate bunnies, marshmallow chicks, and colored eggs. Little baskets containing cute chocolate eggs and sweets made of sugared almonds are bought for children. There are prayers and services held in all churches to end the mourning period of lent and to celebrate the holy festival.
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