5 Significant Christian Events and Their Meanings
Like most events, Christian events come with many ceremonial activities and celebrations. They are often a period for family reunions, friends and family hangouts, and even photoshoot sessions. We tend to get carried away with the fun activities and forget the reason for these celebrations.
There are several events celebrated across various denominations in the Christian faith. However, this article highlights the five most significant Christian events and explains why they are celebrated.
Ash Wednesday reminds Christians of the need for repentance and reconciliation with God. It is popularly celebrated by Christians worldwide.
The event dates back to ancient Rome when sinners wore ash-sprinkled sackcloths at the beginning of a public penance period.
In most denominations, the event is often marked by a fast. However, denominations like the Catholic Church also have a special mass celebration. During this celebration, believers receive a mark of the cross on their foreheads.
This mark of the cross is administered in the ashes of burned palms from the previous psalm Sunday. The administering priest recites a bible verse, “For dust you are, and to dust you shall return” Genesis 3:19. The Bible verse is a reminder of human mortality and Ash Wednesday itself marks the beginning of Lent.
Lent is widely celebrated as a period of reflecting on the events leading to the death of Christ. It is marked by abstinence from food and, sometimes, habits and festivities to honour God. It is a 40 days event that commences on Ash Wednesday.
Lent is another Christian practice from the ancient Roman Empire, formalised in 325 CE by the Council of Nicaea. The 40-day period is connected to the total number of days during which Jesus fasted and prayed in the wilderness (Mark 1:13; Luke 4:1–13; Matthew 4:1–11).
The Lengthen period is mainly characterised by solemnity. During this period, some denominations refrain from drumming, clapping and hallelujah chants. Almsgiving is also one of the major characteristics of Lent.
The main purpose of lent is to reflect on the sacrifice of Jesus Christa and build intimacy with Him by putting the flesh under control. This is why believers abstain from certain foods, like meat and habits, and indulge in sacrificial activities like almsgiving.
The Holy Week is the week that starts from Palm Sunday and culminates into Easter. It is a period during which Christians reflect on the events leading up to the death and resurrection of Christ. The Holy Week consists of four major events before Easter:
- Palm Sunday, the beginning of the Holy Week, celebrates Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on a donkey (Matthew 21:1–11; Mark 11:1–11; Luke 19:28–44; John 12:12–19).
- Holy Thursday signifies the Last Supper, during which Jesus washed his disciples' feet (John 13:2-17).
- Good Friday marks the suffering, crucifixion and death of Jesus (Mark 15:21-41).
- Holy Saturday is the vigil of Easter and officially marks the end of Lent.
St. Athanasius, a Bishop of Alexandria, first used the term Holy Week in the 4th Century. Holy Week is the most solemn period of Lent because of the significant events in this period.
Easter Sunday is the event celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ on the third day after his crucifixion and death. It is one of the major festivals celebrated across all Christian denominations.
The meaning of the term “Easter” has been traced to pagan practices in the past. One such meaning is that the term was derived from the name “Eostre”, a goddess of the Saxons. However, in Christianity, Easter is traced back to the Latin word “Pascha”, which originally means Passover.
Easter is still called Pascha in denominations, while others call it “Resurrection Day” or “Resurrection Sunday”. It celebrates God’s sacrifice to save humanity and the beginning of a more accessible relationship with God.
The use of eggs for Easter celebrations has also been termed a pagan practice as it emanates from pagan Europeans. Eggs were commonly used in ancient times to signify fertility and regeneration by non-Christians.
The ascension of Jesus Christ is celebrated a day after Easter Sunday and is called Easter Monday. Both celebrations in modern times are characterised by church activities, family and friends get together and picnics.
The popularity of Easter Sunday is only matched by Christmas, an event celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. It was first called the Feast of Nativity, and the first record of its celebration was in AD 336.
Unlike the other events in this article, Christmas has a fixed annual date and is celebrated on 25th December. Some persons have disputed this date because shepherds could not have gone herding in winter. However, no one knows exactly when Jesus Christ was born.
Christmas is the most widely celebrated Christian event, often characterised by various fun activities like the visitation of Santa Claus. Santa is a legend largely based on the life of St. Nicholas, a follower of Christ widely known for generosity.
Like Easter, Christmas has also been traced to pagan origins in the past. It is believed that the date itself was originally set aside to celebrate the winter solstice in ancient Rome.
The purpose of Christmas is closely related to Easter since it is a major event commencing the fulfilment of Jesus’ crucifixion and death. It reminds us of God’s love through the gift of His son for the salvation of humanity.
In modern times, Christmas is generally characterised by exchanging gifts, decorating Christmas trees, cooking and sharing meals.
The events mentioned above are powerful reminders of our faith. They should be celebrated, but we should be careful not to lose focus on the main essence of the celebration. Celebrating Christian events should help us reflect on the foundation of our faith and bring us closer to God.
Also, despite the various existing links to pagan origins, our celebration of these events boils down to intention. In all, everything we do regarding these celebrations should be for God’s glorification.
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