until April 1, 2018
Easter Facts and History
Easter is a Christian holiday celebrated all over the world by nearly all Christian denominations. The day is also known as Pascha or Resurrection Sunday. In some Christian faiths, Easter is part of a days’ long series of events that begins the Thursday before Easter with Maundy Thursday, continues to Good Friday through Easter Sunday. The week leading up to Easter is sometimes referred to as Holy Week.
When Is Easter Held?
Unlike the Christian holiday of Christmas, Easter is not held on the same date every year. Instead, the holiday is held on the first Sunday following the ecclesiastical full moon that falls the closest to March 21 each year. The moving date was originally due to Christians’ desire to celebrate Easter shortly after Passover. As the date of the Jewish holiday moves based on lunar cycles, so did Easter. In 325 CE, the Council of Niacea created an equation to calculate the date for Easter Sunday each year. Easter is sometimes held on different dates in the Eastern Orthodox denominations of Christianity due to differences in their calendar.
What Does Easter Celebrate?
Easter is the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, a historical figure that Christians believe was the son of God. Jesus Christ was crucified on a Friday, but his body was discovered missing from his tomb that following Sunday. Christians believe that Jesus was taken to Heaven to live alongside God, and that his crucifixion opens up a path for people to believe in him to also be resurrected after Death. This is one of the core tenants of the Christian faith, and Easter is celebrated to remind Christians of it.
Religious Easter Traditions
For religious Christians, Easter is usually celebrated by attending a church service or mass on Easter Sunday. Services and masses may also be held on other days during Holy Week. After or before church, families may gather to eat meals together.
Secular Easter Traditions
Easter is not a federal holiday in the United States but some businesses do close for all or part of the day on Good Friday and/or Easter Sunday to allow employees time to spend with their families. Over the years, a number of non-religious traditions have become associated with Easter and may be enjoyed by people who are not religious or even by those who do not subscribe to the Christian faith. Some of these traditions include:
- Easter Eggs: Dyeing or otherwise decorating eggs is a tradition that originated in ancient Mesopotamia. The eggs were originally meant to symbolize the empty tomb after Christ’s Resurrection, but many people see them simply as a symbol of Easter in the modern age. In some communities, plastic Easter eggs are hidden for children to find in “Easter Egg Hunts” in honor of the holiday.
- Easter Baskets: Many people give baskets filled with candies, Easter eggs and other small gifts to friends and family, especially to children.
- The Easter Bunny: Children are often told that Easter baskets and Easter eggs are left by a figure known as the Easter Bunny. The character emerged out of Germany where Lutheran Christians first came up with the creature during the 17th century.