The History of Easter
By Jane Silver / April 1, 2017
Easter, also called Pascha or Resurrection Sunday, is one of the most important holidays in Christianity. In fact, the history of Easter is linked to the birth of Christianity and many Easter rituals have become embedded in tradition over the centuries.
In practice, the Easter holiday spans an entire season. Lent is the 40-day period marking the time Jesus spent alone in the wilderness and leads up to Easter Sunday. Lent is a time of contemplation, fasting, and penance. Observant Christians refrain from eating meat on Fridays and give up a food or activity they enjoy for the Lenten period.
Mardi Gras also referred to as Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday, is a traditional food and party fest, occurring the day before the Lenten fast begins. Holy Week includes Maundy Thursday, commemorating the Last Supper of Jesus Christ and his disciples; Good Friday, marking the day of Christ's crucifixion; and Holy Saturday, celebrating Christ's transition from crucifixion to resurrection.
The name of this holiday is said be derived from the Anglo-Saxon Eostre, the mythic goddess of springtime and fertility. The name may also be traced to the Old Saxon word oster, which means rising.
Christians celebrate the resurrection worldwide as proof that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. The historic events, which are found in the New Testament of the Bible, make up the foundation of the Christian faith.
Easter is also tied to the Hebrew observance of Passover in the Old Testament, as the crucifixion of Christ occurred during this time in 30 AD. The Last Supper, attended by Jesus and his disciples, was the Passover meal and Jesus' final meal before his crucifixion.
Easter is referred to as a "movable feast," because Easter Sunday falls between March 22nd and April 25th. The Christian church in the west celebrates annually on the first Sunday after the vernal equinox and full moon on March 21st, as per the Gregorian calendar. Orthodox Christians celebrate according to the Julian calendar, so the holiday usually occurs a week or two later.
The entire 50-day period after Easter Sunday, known as "Eastertide," includes glorifying in Jesus Christ's rising to heaven. Observant individuals begin the celebration with a sunrise church service followed by a festive meal.
This holiday and festival that commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ is accompanied by customs such as wearing white, donning Easter bonnets, decorating eggs, and participating in an Easter egg hunt. An Easter Parade is another anticipated event enjoyed by celebrants around the world. These customs have roots in the various spring fertility rites of pagan religions.
"Just as many Christian customs and similar observance had their origin in pre-Christian times, so, too some of the popular traditions of.... Easter dates to ancient nature rites... The origin of the Easter egg is based on the fertility lore of the Indo-European races...The Easter bunny had its origin in pre-Christian fertility lore. Hare and rabbit were the most fertile animals our forefathers knew, serving as symbols of ... new life in the spring season." - Jesuit author Francis X. Weiser, The Easter Book.
Although there are many festive customs and holy rituals associated with Easter, the sacredness of the holiday remains of importance. Easter Sunday will bring families together to pray and rejoice in this joyous spring celebration on April 16th in the United States.
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