Easter Traditions Around the World

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Easter is the most important Christian holiday celebrated around the world. With traditions stemming back centuries, it is also one of the oldest. In America, Easter is celebrated through family gatherings, Easter egg hunts, and delicious desserts to just name a few. In other countries, however, traditions include a variety of unique customs all celebrating one common theme; the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Israel
People from all around the world visit the Holy Land during Easter weekend. At sunrise on Holy Saturday people gather around the Garden Tomb, the location believed to be the site of Jesus’ resurrection. Priests and monks in white robes recite the liturgy and burn incense which rises above the tomb. Another tradition is the Twelve Stations of the Cross where locals and travelers alike follow Jesus’ journey to Golgotha where He was crucified. A large crowd is generally in attendance and some people even carry their own cross to pay homage to the pain of Christ. One of the most significant traditions in Israel takes place at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher on Holy Saturday. All the lights in the city are turned off until the Holy Torch is lit. Everyone in attendance lights their own candle off the Holy Torch and the whole area is illuminated. This custom is often celebrated during Easter Vigil services here in the United States as well.
Australia
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In Australia many traditions are celebrated during Easter weekend and the week anticipating it. One internationally popular theme regarding the Easter holiday is rabbits. In Australia, however, the rabbit is perceived as a pest that damages local crops. Instead, the Australians use the bilby, a marsupial that resembles a mouse-like rabbit. The bilby serves as an Easter mascot much like the rabbit does for Americans. One popular tradition is egg knocking. This game consists of two people holding eggs and tapping on them until one cracks. One of the most popular Australian Easter treats is the hot cross bun. This pastry is a spiced sweet bun filled with raisins and topped with a sugary glaze and white cross. The treat is typically eaten on good Friday. One of the most popular events during Easter time in Australia is the Sydney Royal Easter Show: a two-week event that brings almost a million visitors each year. The festival hosts events such as sheep shearing, wood chopping, and show animal competitions.
France
Easter in France is celebrated through a variety of different activities and events. Unlike most other countries around the world, the Easter bunny is not as prevalent. Rather than the Easter bunny bringing treats to kids, in France it is believed that the cloches volantes or “flying bells” delivers the treats. All the church bells in France are thought to sprout wings and fly to the Vatican where they are blessed by the Pope. The church bells then return on Easter Sunday with treats for children, especially chocolate eggs. One of the oldest French Easter traditions takes place in Bessieres on Easter Monday when a huge omelet is made with over 15,000 eggs and 40 cooks. Another popular tradition is an egg rolling competition where raw eggs are rolled down a slope. The eggs are used to symbolize the stone being rolled away from Jesus’ tomb.
Italy
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The most popular Easter celebration in Italy is a 350-year-old tradition called the Scoppio Del Carro or “explosion of the cart.” An elaborate ancient cart is filled with fireworks in front of the Duomo, Florence’s gothic cathedral. The fireworks are then lit off to celebrate Easter and it is used to symbolize a sign of peace and a good year ahead. Another Italian tradition is called the celebration of the Pasquetta, or “little Easter.” This event takes place the day after Easter and involves many games and activities for families to participate in. One popular event is the Ruzzolone, a competition that involves rolling wheels of ruzzola cheese around the village.
Germany
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Germany shares a lot of the same Easter traditions and symbols that we do in America, though most have adapted into different customs. One of the oldest German traditions is blowing eggs. Rather than dying the eggs, Germans poke a tiny hole and blow the contents of the egg out. After being left out to dry they are carefully painted by children and adults. Once dried these eggs are then hung up on trees outside or on branches brought into homes. Along with egg painting, Easter fires are another German tradition. It is believed to be a tradition of fertility where the ashes from the fire scatter over the fields and fertilize the land.

Post written by Mike Freiberg

St. Patrick: A Story of Conversion and Conviction

Saint Patrick is one of the few saints to have a widely accepted holiday held in their honor. As one of the patron saints of Ireland, this powerful missionary has become a symbol for the nation and the people who hail from it. Known by many names and titles such as the “Apostle of Ireland” and the “Enlightener of Ireland”, Saint Patrick’s influence on Irish culture has spanned centuries. This influence is so strong, that even those who are not ethnically Irish still choose to celebrate his feast day on March 17th. Keep reading to learn more about this notable saint.

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Saint Patrick holding a shamrock

While records regarding St. Patrick’s birth and death dates are unclear, it’s widely accepted that he lived during the 5th century. He was born in Roman, Britain. His family was rooted in a deep Catholic faith, with Patrick’s father being a deacon and his grandfather a priest. This trait was not immediately expressed by Patrick, however, as during his youth he denied the Catholic faith. When he was 16, Patrick was kidnapped by Irish pirates. He was brought to the Irish country side as a slave and worked as a shepherd and animal care taker. He would remain a slave for six years. During this time, Patrick began to reconnect with his Catholic faith. He spent more and more time in prayer, and eventually was able to form a strong relationship with God. One day, Patrick received a message from God saying he would be traveling home soon. Sure enough, Patrick was soon able to escape captivity and made it home to his family in Britain. Now a man in his early 20’s, Patrick had changed. He decided to enter into religious life and pursue a life dedicated to serving Christ.

Patrick became a priest, and a Bishop after that. One day shortly after his ordination, a messenger angel came to him with a letter that read “The Voice of the Irish”. After receiving this message, Patrick knew that he was being called to minister to the people of Ireland. Upon his arrival, Saint Patrick was treated poorly due to his status as a foreigner. He was routinely beaten, robbed, and in some cases even imprisoned. However, this adversity did not prevent him from conducting thousands of baptisms and conversions. Christianity began to spread throughout Ireland, as well as the notoriety and fame of Saint Patrick. It was during this time that many of the legends surrounding Saint Patrick occurred.

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Saint Patrick performing a baptism

First, it’s said that Saint Patrick used a shamrock to explain the holy trinity. As a plant with three connected clovers, the metaphor became quite clear: three parts to one equal body. This metaphor is still one that is used today to explain the trinity. Another legend regarding Saint Patrick is his banishment of the snakes in Ireland. Legend states that during one of his 40 day fasts, St. Patrick was attacked by a group of snakes. As a result, Saint Patrick chased the snakes into the sea and thereby banished them from Ireland altogether. This is widely believed, as Ireland is still known as a country with no native snakes. These are just two examples of the countless legends, landmarks, and artifacts that are connected to the life of Saint Patrick.

As previously mentioned, Saint Patrick’s actual birth and death dates or not known, but many believe that he died at some point during the 5th century on March 17th, which would later become his feast day. By the 7th century, Patrick became known as a Catholic saint and is still celebrated to this day. Saint Patrick’s story is one of true inspiration. Sometimes the situations we find most discouraging or difficult are the ones most beneficial to our spiritual life. By trusting and listening to God, every situation can be made into an opportunity to spread the word of Christ to the world.

 

Post written by Katie Karpinski

 

A Prayer for Inner Strength

Losing a loved one leaves you emotionally and physically exhausted. Your body and soul are weakened, making what used to be routine tasks hard to accomplish. The small things that you used to laugh at now become major obstacles to overcome, leaving you incredibly overwhelmed. The important thing to remember is that feelings like this are normal, and their intensity will pass with time. However, whether you’ve lost someone five days ago or fifteen years ago, you are bound to have days when you need a little extra encouragement and strength. These are the days when you must rely on God. We are told in scripture that “God is our refuge and our strength” (Psalm 46:1). When you find yourself in need of extra strength or support call on God to assist you throughout your day. Use the prayer below to start an ongoing dialogue with the Lord. He is always there waiting to be called upon.

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PRAYER FOR INNER STRENGTH

Lord Jesus Christ,
I’m upset and disturbed,
and I pray that You will grant me
the grace of inner Peace.
As You commanded the storm winds at sea to be calm,
command the storms in my life to be calmed.
Give me the patience I need
to cope with the burdens and anxieties of my life.
Grant me the strength to better deal with my problems,
and the understanding to be more tolerant
and kind to others.
Teach me to seek after Your will
which alone brings peace of mind
and peace of heart.

Amen.

 

Post written by Katie Karpinski
Prayer Source: Catholicdoors.com

The Fourth Sunday of Advent- CELEBRATION

fourth sunday of advent

Well, it’s finally here. Christmas is only a few short days away and we will soon be trading in our purple and pink Advent wreath for the white Christmas candle. As we celebrate this last week of Advent, we celebrate the arrival of Christ—he’s finally here! Sometimes, the last candle of the advent wreath is referred to as the candle of love—the love of God in the form of His son Jesus, the love that Jesus spread throughout the world, and the love that we all share for each other. As we end this Advent season, let us remember what the Christmas holiday is truly about, Christ and His love for mankind. If you have some extra time today, say the prayer below and reflect on His never ending love of you.

PRAYER FOR LOVING OTHERS

Lord, make me an instrument of your love.

May I see each circumstance in my life

as an opportunity to grow in your love.

May I see my environment

as a place to grow in your love.

May I then take this love to other people…

When I am tempted to become impatient,

help me to be patient.

When I am tempted to become unkind,

help me to be kind.

When I am tempted to become jealous,

help me to be tolerant.

When I am tempted to become boastful or proud,

help me give you the glory.

When I am tempted to be rude or selfish,

give me the gift of gentleness.

When I am tempted to take offense,

help me to let go.

When I am tempted to become angry with someone,

give me the gift of forgiveness.

When I am tempted to become resentful,

give me your power to love.

Lord, grant that I may take no pleasure in criticizing others,

but that I may see good in them, as you do.

When I begin to concentrate on the faults and failures of others,

give me courage to praise their accomplishments.

Help me be loyal to those you give me to love.

Help me to believe in them,

even when they do not believe in themselves.

To expect the best from them,

but accept the best they can give.

May I always defend them,

as you always defend me.

All gifts and powers come from you.

All will come to an end.

With one important exception, the gift of love!!!

Lord, when I was a child,

I thought like a child,

I acted like a child,

and I reasoned like a child.

Now that I have become an adult,

I release my childish ways.

Amen.

 

Prayer gathered from catholicdoors.com 
Post written by Katie Karpinski

The Origins of Saint Nicholas

The story of St. Nicholas has been discussed and passed down for many years. He is arguably the most famous saint throughout Christian churches worldwide. He is most commonly known for his anonymous gifts to children late at night, which is how the story of Santa Claus originally was conceived. However, there is a deep history regarding this ancient saint. Although St. Nicholas is regarded as being a generous and loving figure in the Catholic Church, little is known about his personal life and where he originally came from.

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With that being said, there are many legends and stories attributed to St. Nick. It is believed that Nicholas was born in 280 AD in Patara, an early city in Asia Minor. Passed down stories tell us that Nicholas was from a very rich family and inherited a large sum of money when his parents died. He did not keep any of the money and instead gave it away to the less fortunate, especially children. Nicholas became a priest and continued his charitable efforts throughout his life.

One of the most popular stories of St. Nicholas is about a father who had no dowry money for his three daughters on their wedding days. It is believed that the girls would have been killed if there was no money for their husbands. The girls left out stockings to dry by the fire and Nicholas took it upon himself to drop bags of gold into them. Ever since, children have been putting their stockings up by the fire on Christmas Eve in hopes of St. Nick leaving them special gifts.

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Nicholas, who was still very young at the time, had earned a prominent reputation of sympathy and compassion. In 303 AD, the Roman Emperor Diocletian ordered all Roman citizens to worship him as a God. This became problematic throughout the area because Christians were to only believe in one God. Diocletian ordered that all Christians who do not follow the order be imprisoned. Nicholas was one who resisted, and as a result, he was imprisoned for more than five years. Throughout this hardship, he still held to his beliefs. Nicholas was later released and became Bishop of Myra. He continued his charitable acts up until his death on December 6, 343.

Since his passing, Nicholas has become a famous Christian figure all around the globe. By 800, he was officially named a saint by the Eastern Catholic Church. By the 1400’s more than 200 chapels and monasteries were named in his honor. Every year on December 6th, St. Nick’s feast day, churches around the world dedicate services in his name and pass down the stories surrounding his fame.

Post written by Mike Freiberg

 

O Come All Ye Faithful- A Modern Call to Action

Well underway into the 2017 Christmas season, I’m sure we’ve all heard our favorite carols being sung. While some of our favorites might be silly— does anyone actually want a hippopotamus for Christmas? Imagine the mess! There are some Christmas songs that actually have a deeper meaning and help us as Catholics enter more deeply into this joyful season. Last week we featured “Silent Night”, and how its humble origins provide a reminder to us all that God calls us each to greatness. This week we are looking at another classic carol: “O Come All Ye Faithful.”

Written in 1841 by Frederick Oakeley, the song has stood the test of time and is still a very popular tune. Aside from the catchy melody, the lyrics of “O Come All Ye Faithful” are, perhaps, what has led to the song’s success. The clear call to action to come praise and worship the Lord is made clear in the first few lines:

O come, all ye faithful
Joyful and triumphant
O come ye, o come ye to Bethlehem
Come and behold Him
Born the King of Angels!

O come, let us adore Him
O come, let us adore Him
O come, let us adore Him
Christ the Lord

Whereas secular Christmas music may revolve around gifts and the material elements of the season, this song reminds us all of what we’re truly celebrating: Christ coming down to Earth. May this song serve as a reminder to us all to spend this season praising God and thanking Him for the greatest gift of all: His son Jesus Christ. Listen to the full song below and reflect on the coming of Christ this season.

 

 

Post written by Katie Karpinski

The Third Sunday of Advent- JOY

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Often, when we need to emphasize something or mark it as important, we use a red pen or highlight it, right? Well this third week of Advent is no exception! Instead of the usual purple candle, we celebrate this week with a notable pink candle. Why pink, you may ask? Because pink is the liturgical color for joy! It is during the third week of Advent that we celebrate the joy of Christ’s coming. Much like the shepherds in the field, we hear that Christ is coming soon and are overwhelmed with joy!

As you enter into this third week of Advent, reflect on the joy of this season and count the blessings in your own life.

FUN FACT: The third Advent candle is often referred to as the “Shepherd Candle”

 

Post written by Katie Karpinski

Silent Night- A Beloved Christmas Carol

We’ve all heard the classic Christmas carol “Silent Night.” Whether it’s on the radio, in the background of a movie, or sung at Mass, the song is one of the most popular Christmas carols to date. But why? Why has this song, which is so simple and so humble, made such a large impact in not just the Christian world, but also in the secular world? Let’s take a closer look at the song and its origins to find out.

Silent Night

Silent Night was written by Joseph Mohr in 1816. He was a young priest living in Austria who had written the lyrics down in the form of a poem one evening. It wasn’t until 1818 when Mohr would show the lyrics to his friend Franz Gruber, who happened to be a musician-schoolteacher, that a melody accompanying lyrics began to take form. It was Christmas Eve of that same year that the song was performed for the first time. After this first performance, word of the song spread rapidly, growing in popularity along the way. In fact, the Strasser Family, a traveling family of folk singers (similar to the Trapp family singers as seen in The Sound of Music) incorporated the song into their routine. By 1832 the notes had been tweaked to create the melody that we all know and love today.

While there is certainly more history surrounding this beloved song, the true significance of the song comes from the lyrics and creation itself. Mohr and Gruber were by no means famous. They were humble people who lived ordinary lives. They didn’t expect for their simple song to be as popular as it ended up being. They didn’t expect fame or recognition for their efforts. They simply sought a way to better praise and worship the Lord during the season of Advent. Isn’t that something we should all strive for?

Take a moment to listen to this carol. Really listen to the words, think about the message Mohr and Gruber so carefully expressed to the world. Think of what seemingly ordinary acts God is calling you to do. You might be surprised with His answer.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9T4WB2zfmps

Post written by Katie Karpinski

The Second Sunday of Advent- PREPARATION

Second Sunday of Advent

As we enter the second week of Advent, we enter into a spirit of preparation. We are not merely anticipating the coming of Christ, but are actively readying ourselves for His arrival. In the readings this week we hear from the prophet Isiah who declares:

“In the desert prepare the way of the LORD!
Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!
Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill shall be made low;
the rugged land shall be made a plain,
the rough country, a broad valley.
Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together;
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” -Isaiah 40:3 – 5

We are the desert. We are supposed to be preparing the way of the Lord. This time of Advent is a chance for us all to clean ourselves up and make ready for the arrival of Christ!

While there may be talk of cleaning the house, buying gifts, and gathering food, what’s even more important is that we prepare our hearts and minds for Christ’s arrival. This second week of Advent is a great time to do an examination of conscious. Prepare your soul by confessing your sins and spend some time alone with Christ to reflect on what you can be doing to better welcome Him into your heart.

Post written by Katie Karpinski

 

Emmanuel: God’s Eternal Presence

Emmanuel God's Eternal Presence

During the Christmas season, the word “Emmanuel” is certainly repeated often. Whether it’s during a Mass reading, written on a holiday card, or in the lyrics of a popular Christmas song, we are constantly reminded of Emmanuel. But what exactly does this word mean? To some, the word is synonymous with Jesus Christ, for others Emmanuel is the hope of Christ, or a feeling of anticipation. However, the actual meaning of Emmanuel stems much deeper than either of these theories. Emmanuel actually translates to “God is with us.”

You see, Emmanuel isn’t just a name or phrase: it is a promise. God is with us.

Many of us will be missing cherished loved ones this holiday season. It’s common for those who are grieving to experience an increased sense of loneliness during the holidays. Treasured memories of our loved ones will be vivid in our minds, and the traditions that once were so meaningful may be hard to bear. This is normal, but we must take heart and remember the promise of Emmanuel: God is with us. He is always with us. Even in our most lonely and desperate times, God is close to us. If you find yourself in a state of isolation, reach out to God and ask for His comfort and healing.

It is also important during this time of grief to attend Mass. While God is always with you, attending Mass is a unique opportunity to grow in physical closeness to Christ through the Eucharist. Receiving the blessed sacrament assures that God will live inside you, yet another reminder of His never ending love. Also, it is during the Mass that the veil between the living and the dead is thinnest. Certain portions of the Mass are even dedicated to the souls of those who have died and the saints currently in Heaven. By taking an active part in the Mass, you not only grow closer to Christ, but you have the chance to pray and reconnect with your dearly departed loved ones.

To anyone who is grieving the loss of a loved one this season, you are not alone. God is with you.

~~~

Join us on December 17th for our Sunday Grief Support Group. This month’s topic will be “God’s Eternal Presence.”

In a warm, comfortable, and supportive environment, you’ll find a warm fellowship of people with similar grief experiences.
Come. Listen. Be in the presence of those who understand. Available at the following locations:

Holy Cross Cemetery, Akron
Holy Cross Cemetery, Brook Park
St. Joseph Cemetery, Avon

NO RESERVATIONS NECESSARY. Please join us.

More information available at https://www.clecem.org/Events/Calendar.aspx

Post written by Katie Karpinski