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Easter: Reflections and New Beginnings

Easter in India   While the media may give you the impression that Easter is all about Easter eggs, Easter bunnies and Marshmallow peeps, many Christians around the world assign a much greater meaning and somberness to the holy season of Lent and Easter. When we were growing up in India (and it is true even today in large parts of the country) we had little knowledge of eggs, bunnies and peeps. To us, especially young kids, it was a time marked by much hardship. We knew we had to give up certain things that we really liked. Folks would prepare for Easter much like how honest devotees would prepare themselves as Ayappa Swamis for their journey to Shabarimalai. Something that we commonly used to see in Mangalore.

   For those who are not very familiar with the details, Easter is the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ three days after He was crucified by the Romans. This makes Good Friday, the day Jesus was crucified, a holy day of reflection. And given what happened on Good Friday, one doesn't greet anyone by saying "Happy Good Friday". You would reserve such greetings for Easter Sunday which is in fact considered as the most joyous event in the Christian calender. Yes, even greater than Christmas. But first things first.

  Forty days before Easter, much like Ramadan, Christians all over the world observe a period of sacrifice and reflection called Lent (or the Lenten Season). During this time one is expected to give up something that he or she really likes or enjoys. Most commonly people give up eating meat, chocolates, smoking cigarettes, alcohol etc. Naturally, when we were kids, Lent was not the most favorite time of the year for us. We would get very anxious as Lent grew closer since we knew we had to give up non-vegetarian food, chocolates, watching TV and movies. As is evident, folks in Mangalore (a southern coastal town in Karnataka that has a large concentration of Christians) tend to take their Lent seriously. While some made concessions for eating fish, the purists frowned upon everything that is considered non-vegetarian. Fridays are considered especially holy and one is expected to observe a fast. If one followed such stringent restrictions faithfully, the onset of Easter was truly considered as a Joyous occasion regardless of its religious significance. They could at last get their hands on what they gave up!

  But what does all this mean? and why do we do it? Besides the religious connotations that apply mostly to Christians, there are aspects to these practices that each of us can relate to. For many of us, things like sacrifice, introspection and strict discipline does not come naturally. We need some urging and coaxing. Understanding that there is a kind of love where a person would give their life for us makes us desire to be better individuals. Reflecting on our actions in the past shows us where we went wrong and where we can improve ourselves. Giving up something instills in us a certain kind of discipline and diminishes our tendency to become greedy, reduces our wants and desires and might even make us generous towards others. But the hope is that all this will induce an overall "niceness" in you which will show in your interactions with others. And heaven knows we need more of such behavior in these times of hatred and intolerance. And for those of us who believe in God and a higher power, this period helps in establishing better lines of communication.

  Wishing all our readers a very Happy Easter. May you always be inspired to be kind, loving and tolerant towards everyone around you!