What and When is Easter?

Easter is the  most important holy day of the Christian Church. It is a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ,  which is the central event in Christianity.  Christians believe that Jesus died for the sins of the world on Good Friday (the Friday before Easter) and then rose from the dead on the third day (Easter Sunday).  Christians hope that they too will experience a resurrected life in heaven.

The exact day of Easter falls on seems pretty old-fashioned.   The Western Church (Catholic and Protestant) continues to observe it based on the rules of long ago.  It is based on the lunar calendar and tied to the start of the solar spring.  It falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after March 21 (the vernal equinox). It can’t come before March 22 or after April 25.  This year, Easter falls on March 31st!

Easter is the most important holiday for Christians. (photo used with permission from flickr via stringberd)

However, the Orthodox Churches wanted to tie Easter to Jewish Passover, given the relationship between Passover and the day of Christ’s resurrection. The Jewish calendar determines the date that Jews celebrate Passover, so Easter for Orthodox Churches can vary by as much as five weeks from the Western Church.

The Easter Bunny has pagan (non-religious) origins and has no connection with the Christian celebration. Rabbits have been associated with springtime since ancient times. It is believed that the Anglo-Saxon Goddess of Spring, Eostre had a hare (rabbit) as her companion. The hare symbolizes fertility and rebirth. Later Christians changed the symbol of the hare to the Easter bunny.  The idea of an egg-laying rabbit was taken to America in the 1700’s by German immigrants.

The tradition is that on the Saturday night before Easter Sunday, the Easter bunny leaves colored Easter eggs, chocolates and maybe some small toys in an Easter basket for every child.  Another tradition is the Easter Egg Hunt.  On Easter Sunday, parents hide eggs outside in the yard and the children go on an egg hunt to find the eggs.  The children  place the eggs in their Easter baskets as the run around hunting for more eggs.  (information from topmarks.co,uk)

For more information about the Easter holiday, visit:  http://www.topmarks.co.uk/easter/easterbunny.aspx

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