What is Easter all about?
Easter or Resurrection Sunday is a festival and holiday that celebrates the resurrection of Jesus, described in the New Testament as having occurred on the third day of his burial after his crucifixion by the Romans at Calvary c. 30 AD. It is the culmination of the Passion of Jesus, preceded by Lent, a forty-day period of fasting, prayer, and penance.
Most Christians refer to the week before Easter as "Holy Week"—it contains the days of the Easter Triduum, which includes Maundy Thursday, commemorating the Maundy and Last Supper and Good Friday, commemorating the crucifixion and death of Jesus.
The New Testament states that the resurrection of Jesus, which Easter celebrates, is a foundation of the Christian faith. The resurrection established Jesus as the powerful Son of God and is cited as proof that God will judge the world in righteousness. For those who trust in Jesus' death and resurrection, "death is swallowed up in victory." Any person who chooses to follow Jesus receives "a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead". Through faith, in the working of God, those who follow Jesus are spiritually resurrected with him so that they may walk in a new way of life and receive eternal salvation.
Easter is linked to the Passover recorded in the Old Testament through the Last Supper suffering and crucifixion of Jesus. According to the New Testament, Jesus gave the Passover meal a new meaning, as in the upper room during the Last Supper, he prepared himself and his disciples for his death. He identified the bread as his body soon to be sacrificed and the cup of wine as his blood soon to be shed. Paul says, "Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast— as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed". This refers to the Passover requirement to have no yeast in the house and to the symbol of Jesus as the Paschal lamb.
Easter and the holidays that are related to it are moveable feasts which do not fall on a fixed date in the Gregorian (UK) or Julian calendars which follow only the cycle of the sun; rather, its date is determined on a lunisolar calendar similar to the Hebrew calendar. It has come to be the first Sunday after the ecclesiastical full moon that occurs on or soonest after the 21 March. Easter therefore always falls on a Sunday between the 21 March and the 25 April inclusive.
This also means that Palm Sunday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Ascension Day and Pentecost / Whitsunday are all affected by the date that Easter Sunday falls on. The following day, Easter Monday, is a legal holiday in many countries with predominantly Christian traditions.
Easter is linked to the Jewish Passover by much of its symbolism, as well as by its position in the calendar. In many languages, the words for "Easter" and "Passover" are identical or very similar. Easter customs vary across the Christian world, and include sunrise services, exclaiming the Paschal greeting, clipping the church, (this involves either the church congregation or local children holding hands in an outward-facing ring around the church. Once the circle is completed onlookers will often cheer and sometimes hymns are sung. Often there is dancing. Following the ceremony a sermon is delivered in the church and there are sometimes refreshments. Currently, there are only a few churches left in England that hold this ceremony) and decorating Easter eggs.
Easter eggs are specially decorated eggs given out to celebrate the Easter festival. The custom of the Easter egg originated in the early Christian community of Mesopotamia, who stained eggs red in memory of the blood of Christ, shed at his crucifixion. The oldest tradition is to use dyed chicken eggs but a modern custom is to substitute eggs made from chocolate or plastic eggs filled with candy such as jellybeans. Additional customs that have become associated with Easter and are observed by both Christians and some non-Christians include egg hunting, the Easter Bunny, and Easter parades.
So whatever you are doing this Easter enjoy your chocolate bunnies or jellybeans but let’s not forget what Easter is really all about.