MASSENA - As any Christian knows, Easter is one of the religions most significant holidays, representing the resurrection of Christ, a belief that some say is the foundation of Christianity.
However, some sources say Easter began as a pagan holiday, with origins that pre-date the time-period when Christ is believed to have died on the cross - only to rise three days later.
Pastor Clifford Boice, of the Massena Baptist Church, said Easter derives from a German pagan holiday held to honor Estore, a pagan goddess of motherhood and fertility to the Saxons of northern Europe. Some say the American and European customs of painting and decorating eggs - and filling fake plastic eggs with sweets - is derived from Estores status as a goddess of fertility.
But this theory is not universally accepted, and others believe Easters origins trace back to Ishtar, an ancient Mesopotamian goddess of fertility, love and sex.
Regardless of its ancient roots, Easter has over time grown to commemorate the belief in the resurrection of Christ - a belief that Father Donald J. Manfred, of the Sacred Heart Church Rectory in Massena, calls the most essential belief we have as Christians.
Father Manfred believes the concept of Christs resurrection has a symolic importance to empower Christs followers in the daily struggles they face.
The celebration is also that which gives us hope to help people who are struggling in our society, Father Manfred said.
Although Father Manfreds church is Catholic and Mr. Boices is protestant, Mr. Boice holds a similar belief on the symbolic importance of Easter. We have hope because hes alive. If he was still dead there would be no hope for humanity, Mr. Boice said.
Father Scott Fobare, of St. Marys and St. Josephs Church in Massena, plans to use the Easter services to teach charitable values, such as helping individuals living in poverty. Father Fobare feels the time is right for such a message, with the weak economy and the recent appointment of Pope Francis, whom is an advocate for helping the poor, Father Fobare said.
I see that (need) more and more, especially in the economic times were facing with many more poor. We need to get away from the greedy mentality of thinking of ourselves before others, Father Fobare said.
Father Fobare also places a heavy emphasis on family during the Easter holiday season. Like the Christmas holiday season, Easter is a time to see and spend time with ones family, he said.
Each of those three pastors expect to see larger than usual parishes on Easter, and they encourage all residents to use the holiday to worship and spend time with loved ones.
Im hoping all the churches in Massena will be full, Mr. Boice said.