Lilies have long a been a symbol of Easter. The plants known as Easter lilies originated in Japan on the Ryukyu Islands. They are also cultivated in Taiwan and Bermuda. Easter lilies used in the U.S. are generally grown in California and Oregon. Easter lilies have been raised on a large-scale in the U.S. since World War II. Easter lilies are largely grown along the Smith River near the Oregon/California border. The climate is cool and rainy and ideal for the bulbs. The bulbs are raised in the ground for 3 years under severe disease and pest attack. Then the bulbs are shipped to local greenhouses for the final growing stages. There are concerns that the heavy concentration of pesticides used in the production of the bulbs is polluting the Smith River, local groundwater and harming both people and fish. The environmental concerns are ongoing and haven’t been resolved yet.
For more about this topic see: http://www.takepart.com/feature/2016/03/25/easter-lily-pesticides
One of the most famous series of eggs is the fabled Faberge Eggs, made for the Russian Royal Family from 1885 to 1916. Of the 50 eggs, 43 still exist.
Before 325, the date of Easter was calculated based on the Jewish Passover. After the Council of Nicaea in 325, Easter was calculated independent of the Passover. Generally Passover is only a few days before Easter but some years the two holidays are about a month apart.
It has been the general rule since at least the 700s that Easter is calculated as the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox. However, the full moon is assumed to occur on the 14th day of the lunar month when it can actually occur +/- 0 to 2 days from that time. Similarly the spring equinox is assumed in the calculation to always be March 21, when the equinox can also occur on the 19th or 20th as well. These calculations yield a possible date range for Easter from March 22 to April 25.
The differences in the Julian and Gregorian calendars in determining Easter come from an error in the Julian calendar about the length of a year (the Julian year is .002% too long, gaining an extra 3 days every 4 centuries), and differences in how lunar months are calculated. The Gregorian calendar is more precise and accurate than the Julian one.
March 17th is St. Patrick’s Day. St. Patrick’s Day commemorates the patron saint of Ireland, Saint Patrick (380-461 A.D.) He was one of the first Christian missionaries to Ireland and he was later the Bishop of Ireland. The shamrock is both a symbol of St. Patrick and Ireland.
In Ireland St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated with baked goods (cakes, cookies, etc), parties and parades. St. Patrick’s Day cards are exchanged among family and friends.
The first St. Patrick’s Day parade in the U.S. was in Boston in 1737. Now more than 120 cities in the U.S. have St. Patrick’s Day parades.
During the middle ages Lent was one of the times of year that it was hard to be a knight looking to smite something. To help make life more peaceful the church had instituted the “Truce of God”. It was against the rules to fight on truce days. All of Lent (and always Sundays) fell under the “Truce of God” whereby it was considered sinful for knights to engage in warfare on those days.
“Invented” by the Romans, pretzels are a traditional Lenten food that used to be only eaten this time of year. Pretzels were popularized for Lent because of the fasting requirement to eat no fat. Pretzels are basically water, flour, and salt. Ash Wednesday marked the first day that the pretzel vendors would appear in places like Germany, Austria, and Poland. Of course nowadays pretzels are sold year round.
Today is Ash Wednesday. Since the seventh century it has marked the start of Lent. The first day of Lent has been called Ash Wednesday since 1099. Lent comes from an Anglo-Saxon word that refers to the lengthening of days and the coming of spring.
Lent is a fast of 40 days (not including Sundays) that runs from Ash Wednesday until Holy Saturday (the Saturday before Easter). Originally the fast was just from Good Friday to Easter. During the third and fourth century a 40 day fast was adopted.
This fast meant not eating certain foods (generally dairy, meat and fat), only drinking water, and only eating one meal later in the day. Over 1000 years the time of this meal slid from late in the day to not eating anything until the None hour (the ninth hour of the Roman day which corresponds to 3 pm), to not eating anything until noon. (The Roman ninth hour is the origin of the word noon). With the Reformation some Protestants gave up Lenten fasting and others did not. Many Christians now observe some form of fasting or giving up a particular food during Lent.
The imposition of ashes as a sign of penance is a custom that is referred to in the Old Testament. It was officially adopted by Christians in the fourth century, although there are written references to it from before then.
In the middle ages people who were undergoing penance would not attend church after Ash Wednesday until Holy Thursday (Maundy Thursday). In the meantime they would undertake fasting and wear coarse sackcloth clothing. They would stay at a monastery or similar place and pray and perform manual labor and works of charity.
Originally imposition of ashes was only for those undergoing the penance described above. By 1100 it was possible for faithful Christians who were not undergoing penance to just receive the imposition of ashes. With the Reformation most Protestant churches did away with the imposition of ashes. Starting in the 20th century many Protestant churches revived the custom of the imposition of ashes for Ash Wednesday.
Today is Shrove Tuesday. It marks the culmination of the carnival season. The carnival season is generally the week before Lent. The word carnival is similar to the word carnivore. Carnival refers to the festive period before Lent begins and meat can no longer be consumed. Now the definition of carnival is broader and can refer to just a general festive gathering with games and amusements.
Mardi Gras takes place on Shrove Tuesday. Although there are many Mardi Gras parades leading up to Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras is French for fat Tuesday and refers to the practice of using up fat in cooking to make a feast.
Shrove Tuesday is followed by Ash Wednesday which marks the start of Lent. Lent is often marked with fasting or abstaining from certain foods. Pancakes are a traditional food to eat on Shrove Tuesday. There are many ethnic varieties of pancakes that are very rich and high in fat in the recipe. Shrove Tuesday is also known as Pancake Day.
The name Shrove Tuesday refers to being shriven or confessing sins. Lent used to be a penitential period where people would wear sackcloth clothing, fast, and do penance for their sins. These aspects have moderated in recent times compared to a couple hundred years ago. Although for many people Lent is a time of much prayer and reflection.
Shrovetide refers to the Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday.
Everyone is aware of Shrove Tuesday and the custom of eating pancakes on that day. Far fewer people are aware of Collop Monday. Traditionally the Monday before the start of Lent is the last day that eggs and bacon can be eaten. (Two foods that would go nice with pancakes on Tuesday). Collop refers to frying meat. Both Collop Monday and Shrove Tuesday are part of the festive season that comes before the austere Lent.
The time leading up to Lent is also known as carnival season. Carnival has the same word origin as the word carnivore. Both words relate to meat. Carnivore refers to meat-eaters. Carnival refers to the giving up of meat for Lent. Much like Mardi Gras celebrates the giving up of fat for Lent, carnival celebrates the giving up of meat for Lent.
Mardi Gras is also known as Shrove Tuesday. The name Shrove Tuesday comes from the tradition that Lent was a penitential period. (Particularly in the middle ages and before the industrial revolution). Many people would attend confession and be “shriven”. Shriven –> Shrove.