Easter is an important Christian religious holiday, commemorating the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The main Christian belief of this religious holiday is based on the theme: Jesus was the son of God who died for everyone’s wrongdoings and then came back to life to defeat death and evil.
|Happy Easter Sunday Info|
|Celebrates the Resurrection of Jesus from dead, as having occurred on the third day after his Crucifixion and Burial on Good Friday, the Sunday of Holy Week.|
|Christian Religious Holiday|
|Church services, egg decoration, family meals, gift-giving, fireworks|
|Prayers, All Night Vigil, Sunrise Services, Parades|
|Movable feast, variable dates|
|Pascha, Easter Day, Resurrection Sunday|
|April 21 (Western) – April 28 (Eastern)|
|Easter Eggs, Easter Bunny, Lamb|
|Palm Sunday, Holy Monday, Holy Tuesday, Spy Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Black Saturday|
Want to skip ahead to a particular section?
- 1 What is Easter?
- 2 When is Easter?
- 3 Why does Easter fall on two different dates?
- 4 When did Easter first start?
- 5 How Easter Got Its Name & What Does It Mean?
- 6 What is the story of Easter Sunday?
- 7 Happy Easter Holiday Celebrations Around The World
- 8 Easter Customs & Traditions Around The World
- 9 Easter Holiday Symbols & Origins
What is Easter?
Easter Sunday is a significant religious holiday on Christian calendars, honoring Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead three days after his Crucifixion at the Skull.
All the readings of Gospels mention Easter Sunday as the day when Jesus rose from the dead following his Crucifixion and Burial on Holy Friday. His resurrection marked the victory of good over evil and death.
Since the Resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday speaks to the fulfillment of God’s promise to humanity and fulfill the prophecy of the Messiah who would be tortured to death, die for His people’s sins, and rise on the third day (Isaiah 53) – Christians honor this Sunday festival as the most special day on their religious calendars.
As per Christian beliefs, it is the only occasion which proves that people who trust in God and acknowledge Christ will be raised from the dead and have eternal life.
When is Easter?
Christian Easter Sunday 2019 – 21 April (Western) & 28 April (Eastern). Easter falls after Lent (a 40-day period of fasting and repentance). Lent starts on Ash Wednesday and ends on Good Friday, followed by Black Saturday and Easter Sunday.
Why does the date of Easter change every year? Being a Christian movable feast, Easter Sunday never falls on a fixed date; rather, its date is decided on a lunisolar calendar. The holiday falls on the first Sunday that comes after the ecclesiastical full moon that occurs on or soonest after March 21st.
The week leading up to Easter is called Holy Week or Passion Week, and includes many important events of Jesus’ life in Jerusalem, starting from Palm Sunday (the day that commemorates Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem) followed by Maundy Thursday (Jesus Last Supper), Good Friday (when Jesus was crucified on the cross), and finally the Easter Sunday (the day when Jesus arose from the dead).
*Quick fact: In the next 100 years, Easter Sunday will fall on April 1st twice – 2029 and 2040.
In Western Christianity (such as the Roman Catholic Church), Easter Sunday marks the beginning of Eastertide – the seven weeks long Easter Season ending with the fiftieth day on Pentecost Sunday.
In Eastern Christianity (such as the Orthodox Church), Easter Sunday marks the beginning of Pascha season and ends with the coming of the fortieth day on the Feast of the Ascension.
Easter has two different dates – one for the Catholic Church and one for the Orthodox Church. The main reasons behind the various dates are the church and the modern calendar.
Why does Easter fall on two different dates?
The first Ecumenical Council called the Concilio de Niza was held in 325 AD. In those times, churches worldwide held Easter on different occasions. In order to unite the Churches, members of the Council established a formula that calculated the date for a worldwide Easter Festival celebration.
The council came to a final decision that Easter will be celebrated on the first Sunday that occurs after the ecclesiastical first full moon, which follows the vernal equinox, but always after Jewish Passover. In order to prevent any confusion, the date of vernal equinox was set to be 21 March. This system ensured that all churches celebrate Easter Sunday together on the same day.
The Council finalized a universal Easter date, but what they did not count on was a division in the church in 1054.
The Grand Schism of 1054 became the church’s dividing point. The Roman empire split up into the Eastern and Western Empires. Although the Church sought to preserve its universal role, it soon split up too. The eastern and west halves were not only formed by their own separated empires, but also by their own emperors and their own church heads. The battle over the church’s rule caused the division of the Church into Catholic and Orthodox.
Though the churches were divided into several theological views, both still believed that Easter should be celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon to follow the vernal equinox.
However, some years later, the Catholic Church moved from the Julian calendar to the 1582 Gregorian calendar. The Orthodox have still remained in accordance with the original Nicene Council Easter formula and the original Julian schedule.
The vernal equinox is now subject to different dates under the Gregorian calendar and the Julian calendar by using two different calendar systems. The two churches now celebrate the same Easter holiday on two different days. On very rare occasions, the dates of Easter are the same in both Catholic and Orthodox Churches.
Quick fact: Due to the dates of ecclesiastical full moon, via which Easter dates are determined, Easter will never fall in winter season. It will always fall between March 21st and April 26th.
When did Easter first start?
Easter first started in Palestine when Roman Emperor Hadrian defeated a Jewish rebellion in the Revolt of Barkokeba (132-135 A.D.). Victorious Hadrian rebuilt the devastated ruins of Jerusalem and expelled the region from Jew and Jewish Christians. He introduced several policies and laws that strictly prohibited the practice of Jewish religious traditions and customs.
Jerusalem’s Jewish-Christian religious administrators were replaced with Gentile members. These new Gentile leaders of the church refreshed the traditional date of the Jewish Passover (Nisan 14) to the following Sunday so that to completely separate themselves from Jews and Jewish-Christians observances.
As the impact of Jewish Christians lessened in the congregation, the intensity of Gentile Christians expanded. As they dealt with the congregation, the Gentile Christians started to replace the Biblical symbols of Passover with agnostic symbols and myths (e.g the traditional Passover symbol of a lamb was replaced by the pagan symbol of Easter rabbit).
Passover moved toward becoming “Easter,” which gets from Eastre, Eostre, Eostra, and Ostara. As the dates of Passover were moved to Sunday, so Christians started celebrating this day as the Easter Sunday or Jesus Ressurection Sunday, because Jesus resurrected on the Sunday following Passover meal. So this is how Easter come about and began.
How Easter Got Its Name & What Does It Mean?
Do you know where does the word Easter comes from? No one exactly knows how the Resurrection day of Jesus came to be known as Easter Sunday. Most faithful think that the term ‘Easter’ may have come from the Anglo-Saxon Eastre or Eostre (a Teutonic goddess of spring and fertility).
In Latin and Greek, this day is called Pascha, which is a word taken from Aramaic (Paskha), associated with Hebrew (Pesach). In ancient times, this term was used for the Jewish Festival of Passover. But in the mid of the 1st century, Paul the Apostle, in his writing applied the term ‘Pascha’ to Christ.
While ‘Easter’ being the most popular term for the Resurrection day of Jesus, the second term ‘Pascha’ is used in most of the non-English speaking countries, as well as used as a name to remember Jesus in the Orthodox Church.
What is the story of Easter Sunday?
To understand the story of Easter, you first need to recall all the major days of the Holy Week leading up to Easter Sunday. Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, in order to celebrate the Jewish festival of Passover. He received a warm welcome by the Jewish people, but soon after his arrival, the Pharisees and religious leaders of that time began to question Jesus of his authority.
The chief priests were jealous of Jesus’ rising popularity, they were furious over Jesus’ cleansing of the temple, His teachings, and Parables. At last, they decided to kill Jesus, and the person who was to help them in this mission was Jesus’ own disciple – Judas the Iscariot who betrayed Jesus and handed him over to the Roman soldiers.
On Maundy Thursday, while Jesus and his disciples were celebrating the Passover meal, Jesus predicted his crucifixion on the following day (Good Friday), and made several other predictions as well like a betrayal by one his apostles and Peter’s denial of him.
Shortly after having his Passover meal on Thursday, known as the Last Supper, Jesus was betrayed by his disciple Judas. He was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane and was ordered to be crucified by Pontius Pilate over allegations that professed to be the Son of God. Despite the fact that Christians today believe Jesus is the Son of God and their Savior, the priests and people of his time said this was blasphemy that deserved capital punishment. According to Christian scholars, the crucifixion of Jesus occurred on Friday in the year 33 AD.
A righteous man, named Joseph, brought Jesus’ dead body down from the cross and laid him in a cave and made it his tomb. He sealed the cave with a rock.
Very early, on Easter Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene, the women who cared for Jesus’ body by anointing it with embalming oil, found that Jesus’ tomb is empty. She stood crying outside the tomb. But an angel appeared and said:
“Don’t be afraid. He is not here, he is risen”
At this, the woman recalled that Jesus had revealed to them that he would rise again on the third day and happily rushed to tell this happy resurrection news to the disciples. And then for the next 40 days, Jesus appeared to his disciples and showed them he was alive and perfectly healthy. When asked why he laid his life, when he already knew he would be killed this way, Jesus answered that what he did was the only way that his people could be pardoned for their sins.
Today, Christians around the world celebrate Easter Sunday to acknowledge Jesus’ resurrection from the dead on Sunday after the Thursday Passover Meal and Friday Crucifixion.
Happy Easter Holiday Celebrations Around The World
There are many traditions associated with the celebration of Easter and the entire Easter season. These traditions include the Easter Bunny, Easter Eggs, flowers, candies, and gift baskets. Let’s dive into the Easter celebrations in different parts of the world with the heaviest population of Christians.
Easter is celebrated with great delight, joy, and happiness in the Christian community. In countries where Christianity is the official religion, or where the country has a majority of the Christian population, Easter Sunday is often celebrated as a public holiday. The day is off for all schools, offices, banks, institutes, and public and private organizations. As it always falls on a Sunday, so in many countries of the world there is a public holiday on the following Monday which is called Easter Monday.
In Sweden, Ireland, and other Nordic Countries – there are celebrations throughout the Holy Week, but the major celebrations start from Good Friday and continue till Easter Monday, where each of the days is a public holiday, and the Good Friday and Easter Monday both public and bank holidays. In some regions, Maundy Thursday is also a public holiday.
In some countries, Christian employees are awarded an Easter break, means a complete Holy Week holiday for celebrating Easter and other important days with friends and family. In some regions, schools also give a week holiday to children, opening on the Tuesday after Easter Monday.
Easter Sunday in the Netherlands is celebrated with a unique approach. Both the Sunday of Easter and the Monday of Easter, are considered as Easter Sundays and are national holidays. The celebrations here continues until Tuesday.
In most Commonwealth Nations such as Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh – there is not a single public or bank holiday on Easter Sunday or the entire Holy Week. However, state ministers of small states in the Indian regions with the most Christian population sometimes may introduce a holiday or half day for Christian inhabitants. In countries like Canada and the United Kingdom, the day is public and bank holiday, respectively.
Countries that lie in the southern hemisphere, celebrate Easter in autumn. Here Easter festival is associated with the harvest time, rather than welcoming spring season as in the northern hemisphere zones. An example of this is Australia, where Easter festival takes place in autumn, with usually Good Friday and Easter Monday as public holidays.
Easter Customs & Traditions Around The World
Easter is the most anticipated day on the Christian religion calendars. The importance of this day lies in the fact, that Jesus resurrected from death and defeated the evil on this day. In most countries, the Christian festival of Easter means church services, candy baskets, Easter egg hunts, parades, and lots of fun. Here’s how Christians and non-Christians celebrate the Easter holiday:
In many regions, church bells are not rung between Maundy Thursday and Black Saturday. According to Catholic teaching, no bells can ring between these days because these are the sad days of Jesus’ Passion, Crucifixion, and Death. But as the resurrection day of Easter arises, the church bells are rung again, and local kids are presented with lots of chocolates and candies.
Dances, street plays, carnivals, and songs are some of the common ways of celebrating Easter. In every town, there are organized special functions to mark the day. There are colorful parties where Christians don’t only sing and dance, but also gift chocolates, candy baskets, and colorful lanterns to each other.
In Italy, there’s a 300-year-old tradition of celebrating Easter, with the “explosion of the cart”. An ancient cart is loaded with colorful fireworks and pulled in front of a cathedral, where thousands of spectators watch a brilliant display of fireworks.
In many Christian households, there’s a custom of preparing a “blessing basket”. The basket filled with colored eggs and lots of snacks is taken to the church to be blessed and then either eaten by the family members themselves or shared among friends and neighbors.
A unique custom of celebrating Easter can be sound in the Polish culture, where young boys and girls get together and wet each other with water guns, water balloons, and buckets of water. Legend has it that young girls who get completely soaked will marry within the year!
In Australia, the famous Easter bunny is replaced with the Easter Bilby. Rabbits are considered pests because they destroy the farming lands, so in Australia, the kids are visited by Bilbies, who have big soft ears like rabbits and long pointing noses like mice. Furthermore, every year on Easter Sunday and throughout the first two weeks of Easter season, there’s the country’s largest annual farming event, the Sydney Royal Easter Show where farming communities showcase their crops and livestock.
Burning the effigies of Judas, the apostle who betrayed Jesus, is another common tradition associated with Easter. In Latin American countries such as Brazil and Spain, people either burn the effigies in a central location or make it explode with fireworks.
In some countries, the celebrations of Easter season are mixed with that of Walpurgis Night (the night of witches). There are entertaining performances of Morris dancing and burning of bonfires in city streets and towns. It is believed that dances and bonfires drive the evil witches away and bring good luck.
Other famous traditions of celebrating Easter Sunday include going on a picnic with friends and family, making traditional Easter dinner dishes, presenting Easter gift baskets to children and community members, attending spring celebrations, purchasing new clothes, and decorating homes with white flowers and colorful lights.
Easter Holiday Symbols & Origins
There are different holiday symbols connected with Easter. These symbols include the Easter Bunny, Easter Eggs, and Easter Lilies. But how do these symbols got associated with Easter? As a Christian holiday, the first image might be the cross. Then how did the custom of coloring the eggs, and a rabbit known as the Easter Bunny distributing eggs became an important Easter holiday symbol?
Let’s read how the customs of Easter Egg, Easter Bunny, and Easter Egg Hunt gained worldwide popularity and suddenly got absorbed in Easter holiday traditions:
The Easter Bunny (Origins & History)
The Easter Bunny was invented by early Christians, due to the influence of pagan customs and tradition.
The impact of non-religious Christian practices in the church caused the ancient old Easter symbol of lamb replaced with an Easter rabbit, known as the Easter Bunny. In pagan beliefs, the rabbit is a symbol of fertility, probably because they mate a lot and reproduce fast.
So the clearest thing is the fertility of the rabbit. Easter falls during the arrival of spring which means the renewal of both life and nature. The Christian meaning of the new life through Christ is different, but both of them are gradually unified. It was easy to include animals, such as the rabbit, that produced many offspring.
The rabbit was also an ancient old symbol for the moon. The dates of Easter always depend on the moon. So this might be another reason behind the connection of Easter Bunny with Easter season.
After long winters, rabbit usually come out of their underground homes during summer Easter season. So many people started associated the rabbit coming out of its underground home as symbol Jesus coming out of the grave on Easter Sunday.
The Easter Eggs (Origins & History)
The origin of Easter Eggs goes back to the ancient Egypt civilizations, where different cultures viewed eggs as a symbol of life. The pagans, as well as Persians and Egyptians, believed that all the creation came out of an enormous egg. They also gifted eggs during spring celebrations in the festivity of new life surrounding them. Different sources also state that they ate colored eggs at spring celebrations in Persia, Greece, Rome, and Egypt. In old Druid legend, the eggs of snakes were sacred and represented life.
As time progressed, early Christians looked at the connection of eggs with life and decided to hold them as a symbol of their festival of Christ’s resurrection from death on Easter. This is how Easter eggs originated.
Easter Bonnet, Chocolate Eggs, Painted Easter Eggs (Origins & History)
The colored Easter Eggs are linked to many folk customs in Europe. Eggs were painted with signs like crosses. Children hunting eggs in courtyards was a preferred game during the holiday. With its expanding commerciality, wrapped chocolate eggs emerged with the advent of the modern era. The first Chocolate eggs were produced in Europe in the early 1800s, and soon they became the best-selling candies.
In German folklore, Easter baskets are mentioned. They thought that a white rabbit would go out at Easter, for good kids, and present them colored eggs. In the 18th century, German colonists brought this tradition to the U.S.
Easter Bonnets is a jump back to the days when people refused to wear fine clothes for the time of Lent. Jellybeans became a tradition in the 1930s.
The Easter Lamb
The Easter Lamb is the only Easter Symbol that originates from true Christian traditions and customs. It is the only holiday symbol that has no strong ties to pagan beliefs. The lamb comes from the Jewish Passover, where each family would sacrifice a lamb for the Passover meal.
When Jesus became the Passover Lamb for the forgiveness of His people, the lamb became a symbol of Jesus’ Sacrifice.
John 1:29 – “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
Today, you might have come across Sunrise Services on Easter. Know why? The first recorded sunrise service was held in 1732 by a group of young Moravian men in Herrnhut, Saxony. At sunrise, they went to the cemetery called God’s Acre to worship the women who went to the tomb early in the early morning of the first Easter, and found Jesus body was not there. The custom was brought to America by Moravian immigrants and the first service took place in 1743 in the US.
Wearing New Clothes
The concept of a new beginning has long been associated with new clothing. The custom of having new Easter clothing probably began during Easter Vigil service with early Christians wearing white baptismal robes. As time progressed, the custom was extended to all who wear new clothes to celebrate their new life in Christ.
So this was all about Easter Sunday, its history, holiday symbols, and customs and traditions. Liked the info? Do share it with your friends and let them know what is Easter Sunday.