Easter Sunday is a major Christian holiday that celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ three days after his death. As with many other Christian celebrations it is a moveable feast, and its date always falls on the first Sunday after the ecclesiastical full moon, between March 21 and April 25. Easter Sunday is not a public holiday therefore most stores are open and follow Sunday business hours.
When is Easter?
Easter marks the end of the Passion of Christ period, which begins with the 40 days of lent, symbolizing the days that Jesus spent in the desert being tempted by the Devil, and culminates in the Holy Week, with the Holy Thursday when Jesus had his Last Supper, the Good Friday when Jesus was crucified and finally Easter Sunday, marking the day of his resurrection.
Where does the word Easter come from?
Although there is some debate, most agree that Easter derives from Eostre or Eostrae, who was a goddess that pagans honored in spring fertility festivals. These festivals took place during the spring equinox, and it is believed that Christians took the name and celebrations from these festivals.
Why do we celebrate Easter?
Easter Sunday is regarded as the foundation of Christian faith, as it marks the day of Jesus Christ’s resurrection after his crucifixion.
In around 30 A.D, Roman Emperor Pontius Pilate sentenced Jesus Christ to death, after having him arrested by his troops for alleging to be the “Son of God”. After his death, he was buried in a tomb that was closed off with a big rock. It is said that three days after his burial, Jesus’ followers found the tomb open upon visiting it, and Jesus’ body was missing. During this period, Jesus Christ appeared to many of his followers, before ascending to heaven to be with his father.
In the Bible, it is written that believers who celebrate the events of Easter and have faith in Jesus’ resurrection will also have eternal life. Thus why Easter Sunday became a popular celebration with the Christian religion.
When did Easter celebrations start?
Initially, Easter’s date was determined by the day of the Jewish Passover, as Jesus had his Passover feast the day before his crucifixion. As such, Christians originally waited for the date of the Jewish Passover to be established, and hold Easter celebrations three days after that.
However, as it is believed that Jesus arose on a Sunday, this brought problems, as the date would not always fall on a Sunday. Thus, Christians took to celebrating Easter on the nearest Sunday to Passover.
As the two religions strayed further apart, Christians became unwilling to let their holiday be determined by the Jewish calendar. So, it was decided in the Council of Nicaea that Easter should be celebrated on the Sunday after the first full moon of the Spring Equinox.
The meaning of some Easter traditions
While Easter is a Christian holiday, some of its most well-known traditions have no connection with religion, but rather go back to pagan practices. Nowadays, even non-religious people participate in the activities of the Easter weekend and take part in these traditions.
Chocolate Easter eggs are a common gift and popular symbol of Easter, their history stretching back hundreds of years. One common pastime for children is taking part in Easter egg hunts where they compete to see how many chocolate eggs they can find. Another pastime is decorating real eggs with colors and patterns. Historically, decorated eggs symbolized fertility and birth, and many people believe that it became associated with Easter due to the resurrection (i.e. rebirth) of Jesus Christ.
Children are often told that Easter eggs are delivered by the Easter Bunny, in much the same way as Father Christmas delivers presents at Christmas time. It is not entirely known where this tradition originated, but some sources believe it was brought to America by Germans in the 1700s. Much like the eggs, the use of bunnies during this holiday symbolizes birth and renewal in spring.
Most people celebrate Easter by eating Lamb. In many parts of the bible Jesus is referred to as 'The Lamb of God', so lamb has a deep connection to Easter. In fact the sacrificing/killing of a lamb is an ancient tradition that predates Jesus Christ and can be found in Jewish practices where Lambs were sacrificed during religious rituals.