It is believed that Easter actually gets its name from an Old English word, Ēastre, that was given to the month of April in honor of a pagan goddess, Ēastermōnaþ.
This goddess is believed to have been the deity associated with spring and fertility and some Easter symbols that we would recognize today – eggs and rabbits, or hares – were used during this celebration.
In addition, feasts were held in her honor, but by the 8th century, these had given way to the Christian festival of Easter, which celebrates the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Most of the information on this theory of how Easter got its name comes from Bede, a monk in what is today England.
Jacob Grimm, one of the two brothers famous for their collection of old stories and myths, supported Bede’s claims on the origin of the name Easter although scholars dispute this theory.
However – and wherever – Easter got its name, it is celebrated by more than one in three people in the world.
Wouldn’t you love to celebrate the coming of spring with a wild and exuberant festival where you didn’t have to behave and got to throw colored powder and perfume on people? Sounds like fun!
That’s the festival of Holi, an Indian holiday that is believed to commemorate the faithfulness of a young man, Prahlada, who continued to worship the god, Vishnu, even after he was ordered to stop by his father. His father commanded him and his aunt, Holika, into a fire that burnt up the aunt but spared Prahlada. The name Holi comes from the unlucky aunt.
Followers of Hinduism offer prayers on Holi and light bonfires to commemorate the story of Prahlada, as well.
The festival can last for a few days and it is generally seen as a time where people do not have to adhere to the strict social code in India but can relax and celebrate.
Although celebrations may vary by region, Holi is an important holiday in India, Pakistan, Nepal, and Bangladesh.
Photo courtesy of China News
While most of us are still working on the New Year’s resolutions we made just weeks ago, it’s already time to say Happy New Year again as we celebrate Chinese New Year.
The Chinese calendar follows no fixed date and the new year is determined by the moon. This year, Chinese New Year begins on Jan. 22 with Lunar New Year’s Eve.
The new year, number 4710 on the Chinese calendar – officially begins Jan. 23 and marks the beginning of the Year of the Dragon.
According to legend, Buddha asked all the animals to say goodbye to him when it was his time to leave the earth.
But only 12 animals showed up for the farewell so to honor them Buddha assigned an animal to each of the years in a 12-year cycle.
The legend states that the rat was the first to arrive and so got the first year in the cycle.
The cat failed to show up at all and that is why there is no year of the cat.
Some people believe that you share personality traits with the animal assigned to the year you were born. If you are born in the year of the dragon, you are thought to be brave, enterprising, and quick-tempered.
For educational activities on Chinese New Year and Chinese culture, check out Apples4theteacher.com.
For a KidCulture reading list about Chinese New Year, click here.
Learn more about how families celebrate Chinese New Year around the world with this KidCulture article, Global Family Fun: Celebrate Chinese New Year.