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Traditionally, Easter Sunday is the holiest of all holy days for Christians around the world and Harford County is no exception.

“It is the most important day of the church year,” Father Paul Bickel, of Advent Lutheran Church in Forest Hill, said. “If without His resurrection, none of it makes any sense ... If Christ didn’t rise from the dead, we’re still in our sin.”

Churches around the county are celebrating Holy Week, which began Palm Sunday, March 28, and culminates with Easter Sunday. The week commemorates the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

“Holy Week is the reliving of Christ’s passion as He had each experience until He ended up rising from the dead,” Father Bickel said.

Palm Sunday, or Passion Sunday, recognizes Jesus’ journey into Jerusalem. In many Christian churches, palm leaves are distributed to the congregation.

“The significance of Holy Week is really the significance of the whole season,” Father Henry Kunkel, of St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church in Pylesville, said. “I think the most significant thing underlying the whole thing is there is no one style, no one mood that is appropriate to being Christian ... Jesus alone is the Christian experience that binds all Christians together, regardless of any prevailing mood.”

The Easter Triduum, which takes place during the latter part of the week, includes Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil, which typically occurs on the evening of Holy Saturday or the morning of Easter Sunday.

“Holy Week takes us through the stages leading up to the death and resurrection of Jesus,” Father Kunkel said.

Holy Thursday, also known as Maundy Thursday, is a commemoration of the Lord’s Last Supper.

“On Holy Thursday, we celebrate when Christ was celebrating the feast of Passover for Jewish people,” Father Kunkel said. “It’s celebrating Moses leading the Jewish people out of slavery into Egypt. They had a special meal — a Passover meal. Jesus took that meal, we believe, and He transformed that into what became our Catholic mass.”

One of the most important events to take place during the Last Supper is when Jesus washed the feet of His disciples, Father Kunkel said.

“It’s significant because in His time, of course, people only ran around in sandals or in bare feet,” he said. “Everyone had pretty filthy feet when they came to a place to visit.”

Usually, the task of washing people’s feet fell on the lowest servant.

“Jesus did that as an example of servanthood,” Father Kunkel said. “He set an example for His disciples to serve and love one another as He had done for them.”

As part of St. Mary’s Holy Thursday service, Father Kunkel will wash the feet of 12 parishioners.

“At the appropriate time in the service, I will come down off the altar ... and I will go from person to person and I will wash their feet,” Father Kunkel said. “I will pour water over their feet. At the very end of the service, we will strip the entire church bare.”

Father Bickel’s church in Forest Hill also removes all decorations and objects from the altar.

“At the end of the service, we strip the altar,” Father Bickel said. “It symbolizes the dignity of Christ being taken away from Him and having to suffer in our place. It reminds us of the deprivation Christ went through for our sake.”

Good Friday (today) is when Christians remember the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

“That whole day is concentrating just on the death of Jesus on the cross,” Father Kunkel said. “When that happened, it was the most traumatic thing to ever happen to His followers. They expected Him to become a great political leader and here He was dying on the cross.”

Also on Good Friday, some churches will host a special ceremony for the Stations of the Cross, which depict the final hours of Jesus’ life, or His Passion.

The 12 stations can be observed any time of the year, but are commonly practiced during Fridays in Lent, especially on Good Friday.

Holy Saturday is a day of waiting to remember the day Jesus lay in the tomb.

Finally, on Easter Sunday, Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

“The Easter vigil service is really embellished. It’s the first Mass of Easter,” Father Kunkel said. “There is a lot of extra music and ceremonies. We decorate the church with Easter lilies and flowers. We ring bells and celebrate in a great, big way.”

Advent Lutheran Church also celebrates Easter Sunday with special music.

“We will have choirs and instruments, violins and trombones, and the organ, of course,” Father Bickel said. “Because many times, some Christians who are not very active in the church come to the service, we offer Communion. There is a sense of forgiveness they receive.”

But before the Easter bunny delivers baskets full of goodies on Sunday, children across the county will have countless opportunities to participate in one of the season’s most popular traditions — the Easter egg hunt.

On Saturday, April 3, children 6 and under can take part in the 10th annual Easter egg hunt at 1 p.m. at Rockfield Manor. The Rockfield Foundation is hosting the event. Last year, the event was canceled due to rain.

Grounds open at noon and tickets are $5 for children and adults are free. Children must bring their own baskets.

“We’ve done it so many years. If the weather is really nice, we could have a couple hundred kids. It really depends on how Easter falls,” Jane Pessagno, director of Rockfield Manor, said. “We’re hoping to have a nice crowd. We hide like 3,500 eggs.”

The egg hunt is separated into age groups with children 3 and under in one group and children 6 to 3 in another.

“They happen at the same time,” Pessagno said. “The hunt goes off promptly at 1 [p.m.] and it’s over at 1:02 [p.m.]. It takes hours to hide the eggs and by the time they’re all out, it looks like a big rainbow.”

Along with Easter traditions and services comes a moral responsibility, according to Father Kunkel.

“If we really, truly believe what Jesus is all about, we have a mandate to really care about the human problems that most people ignore,” Father Kunkel said. “We have to speak up for the downtrodden who are powerless to speak up for themselves. We must give forgiveness when people ask for blood and be loyal to the rule of God.”


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