This Christian holiday of Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The date of celebration varies from March to April, and depends on the date of the March equinox. Christians worldwide gather for this major holiday for the religion to feast, attend church services, and hunt Easter eggs. Easter Sunday marks the end of Lent, which is a 40-day period of fasting and reflection. It follows Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.
The story of Easter makes up a fundamental aspect of Christian theology. While Good Friday marks Jesus’ crucifixion, Easter Sunday is a day for Christians to celebrate his resurrection. Following Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion, he was buried in a tomb. While the next part of the story varies according to different accounts, most follow the theme of female followers of Jesus going to visit the tomb and finding the stone rolled away from the opening with Jesus’s body missing. Jesus went on to appear to his followers several times before his ascension into heaven. The resurrection of Christ is an important part of Christian belief because of its association with salvation.
Christians started celebrating the tradition of Easter with a feast soon after the time period of the resurrection, which is believed to have occurred around 33 AD. The time of year was chosen for the celebration since Jesus celebrated the Passover shortly before his crucifixion and so the time is believed to be around the time of Jesus’ actual crucifixion. In medieval celebrations, congregations would walk in a procession after mass, following a priest holding a crucifix or candle.
Many Christians begin the celebration with an Easter Vigil the night before, sometimes called Easter Eve or Holy Saturday. Church services on Sunday typically follow regular church service tradition with a sermon or songs concerning the Easter story. Some churches hold mass or other services at sunrise. Other common Easter traditions include the Easter Egg Hunt and floral decorations.
The Easter egg hunt is a tradition that originated with pagan spring festivals that celebrated fertility. Like many pagan traditions, Christians intertwined the practice with religious significance. Easter egg hunts feature eggs hidden by the mythical Easter bunny, which may contain candy or other prizes. Hard-boiled eggs may also be used. The children will go looking for eggs to put in their Easter egg basket. On the day before Easter, many families decorate hard-boiled eggs with paint to use for the hunt. Eggs are also part of the tradition because of the ban on eggs during Lent in Medieval Europe, meaning they were often included in the Sunday feast.
Churches are often decorated with flowers. A significant theme for Easter is rebirth, which flowers can emulate and symbolize. Traditional Easter flowers include Easter Lilies, which are believed to have grown in the Garden of Gethsemane, the site of Jesus’ arrest. Other Easter flowers include daffodils, narcissuses, and red tulips, which symbolize Jesus’ shed blood.
In pagan celebrations, Easter was typically a celebration of fertility, and many cultures associated the celebration with the Germanic goddess of fertility, Eostre, which is where the holiday’s name came from. Some cultures called the holiday Ishtar, which celebrates the resurrection of the Tammuz, another pagan god.
The Easter Bunny is a result of folkloric tradition. Their association with the holiday comes from their ability to procreate, making them symbols of fertility. German settlers brought the Easter Bunny tradition to America in the 1700s.