Easter is the feast of the resurrection of Jesus Christ on the third day after his Crucifixion.
According to the statements of the New Testament, the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ fell in a Passover week, the date of this moving main Jewish festival also determines the date of Easter. It is determined by a lunisolar calendar and in the Western Church always falls on the Sunday after the first full moon in spring, in the Gregorian calendar it falls on March 22nd at the earliest and on April 25th at the latest. The dates of the moving festive days of the Easter festival circle are also based on this.
Some Christian churches choose to practice the Fourth-Deciman Passover in conjunction with the Jewish Passover.
Easter also refers to the period in the church calendar called the Easter period, which is a period that was celebrated for forty days from Easter Sunday (the climax of the Holy Week) to the day of the Ascension of Jesus but now this period is extended to fifty days, i.e. Pentecost (which means “the fiftieth day” – the 50th day after Passover, there was the descent of the Holy Spirit). The first week of Easter is called the Easter Octave by the Roman Catholic Church. Easter Day also ends the Lenten celebrations, which began forty days before Holy Thursday, which is a time of prayer, regret, and preparation for mourning.
Celebrations and cultural elements
Many cultural elements, including the Easter bunny, eggs, and sending cards have become part of modern celebrations, and these elements are commonly celebrated by Christians and non-Christians alike.
The resurrection of Christ
Easter is the first feast celebrated in Christian liturgical calendars; it is attested from the second century. It commemorates the Last Supper, the Passion and the Resurrection of Christ, events whose synoptic Gospels situate the unfolding during the Jewish Passover festivities in Jerusalem, a Friday 15 nissan of the Hebrew calendar, while the gospel attributed to John places the crucifixion of Jesus on a Friday 14 nissan.
Paul’s epistles, sermons, and Peter’s letters in the Acts of the Apostles mention that Jesus died on the cross, was resurrected by God, and that the apostles and many other witnesses saw him appear after his death.
The feast of Easter was celebrated in various ways by early Christian churches. Some of the early Churches continued to celebrate the Last Supper on the day of the Jewish Passover, in particular the Syriac Churches attached to the Johannine tradition which identified the sacrifice of Christ with the Paschal offering. Others, such as the Church of Rome, celebrated Easter on the Sunday following Passover, thus emphasizing the resurrection after Shabbat.
In 387, Epiphanius of Salamis testifies to “the existence of two groups which celebrated Easter on a fixed date: on the one hand those who follow the “Jewish myths”, on the other a group which, fixed in Cappadocia, celebrate Easter on April 8 (March 25). He specifies that these people claimed to have found the exact date of Jesus’ crucifixion in Christian sources. However, Epiphanes does not admit this date and indicates that other versions give the 15th of April Calends (March 18) or the 10th of those Calends (March 23). He adds that according to his calculations, it is April 13th (March 20).
Easter holiday calender
2021 Sunday Apr 4
2022 Sunday Apr 17
2023 Sunday Apr 9
2024 Sunday Mar 31
2025 Sunday Apr 20
2026 Sunday Apr 5
2027 Sunday Mar 28
2028 Sunday Apr 16
2029 Sunday Apr 1
2030 Sunday Apr 21
2031 Sunday Apr 13
Since its origins, Easter has been a time of celebration and feasting and many traditional games and customs developed, such as egg tapping egg rolling, pace egging, cascarones or confetti eggs, and egg decorating. Today this period is commercially important, seeing wide sales of greeting cards and confectionery such as chocolate eggs as well as other foods. Even many non-Christians celebrate these features of the holiday while ignoring the religious aspects.
Who brings the eggs on Easter Day?
On Easter Day, the tradition is to hide chocolate eggs in the apartment or the garden for the children to look for.
In Catholic countries, it is the Easter bells that bring back the eggs from Rome.
In Germanic and Nordic countries, it is the hare or the rabbit that places them in the gardens. He was the emblematic animal of the goddess Astre whom the Saxons honored in spring and of the fertility and spring goddess Ostara in Germanic country. She gave her name to Easter and has remained associated with the Easter holidays.
In Tyrol, the hen brings the eggs, the cuckoo in Switzerland, the stork in Alsace.
Today that tradition has spread to public parks. Chocolate eggs are hidden there for the children.
What journey do the Easter bells take?
Around the 7th century, the Church forbade ringing the bells between Maundy Thursday and Easter Day: the bells therefore remained silent during the death of Christ until the day of his resurrection.
The legend, in certain Catholic countries and in particular in France, wants that, on the evening of Holy Thursday, the bells go to Rome and ring on Easter morning to announce the resurrection of Christ.
Where does the Easter lamb come from?
In France and in many European countries, lamb is on the menu for Easter Sunday meals. He recalls the Lamb of God who gave his life for the salvation of the world. The lamb in a figurative sense is Jesus sacrificed. The lamb is also the symbol of the “Risen Christ”.
Why do we treat ourselves to and decorate eggs at Easter?
During the forty days of Lent, it was forbidden to eat eggs. However, these can only be kept for 20 days. In mid-Lent, we therefore got into the habit of eating them by making pancakes or bugnes so as not to lose them. The same good economic sense made it commonplace from the Middle Ages to treat yourself to decorated eggs on Easter Day.
The egg gave birth to many customs: the Russian, Greek and Romanian Orthodox Churches have been distributing dyed eggs during the Easter celebration since the 5th century, in the West the Christian tradition of eggs dates back to the 12th and 13th centuries.
At the courts of England and France, kings offered decorated eggs, sometimes with gold leaf, to their courtiers. In 1884, Pierre-Karl Fabergé made an egg ordered by Tsar Alexander III for his wife. Fabergé made 50 eggs considered today to be masterpieces of jewelry.
In the 18th century, in France, we started to empty a fresh egg and fill it with chocolate. Then we made chocolate eggs.
Photo credit: São Paulo Museum of Art / Wikimedia Commons
Photo explanation: Resurrection of Jesus Christ, painted by Raphael, 1502. Read also: Most Famous Paintings in the World