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Categories: Holidays
Added: Wed Mar 31 07:00:00 -0700 2004Views: 29,238
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Easter is a Christian holiday commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead on the Sunday after his crucifixion on Good Friday and marking the end of Lent. Easter is the holiest day in the Christian calendar, followed by Christmas and is recognized as a legal holiday in most countries with a significant Christian tradition, with the notable exception of the United States where Easter is only celebrated on Easter Sunday (and not also on Easter Monday).

The timing of Easter depends on the Jewish Pesach, in English Passover, (see 1 below), which commemorates the sparing of the Hebrew first-born, as recounted in Exodus, since it is during this holiday that Jesus is believed to have been resurrected. In Western christianity Easter Day must always fall on a Sunday on one of the 35 possible dates between March 22 and April 25.

The date of Easter

Easter and the holidays that are related to it are moveable feasts, in that they do not fall on a fixed date in the Gregorian calendar (which follows the motion of the Sun and the seasons). Instead, they are based on a lunar calendar like that used by the Jews. At the First Council of Nicaea in 325 it was decided that Easter would be celebrated on the Sunday after the 14th day of the first lunar month of spring (in theory, the Sunday after the first full moon on or after the day of the vernal equinox). Eventually, all churches accepted the Alexandrian method of computing Easter, which set the northern hemisphere vernal equinox at 21 March (the actual equinox may fall one or two days earlier or later), and the date of the full moon was to be determined by using the Metonic cycle. A problem here is the difference between the western churches and the Eastern Orthodox Churches. The former now use the Gregorian calendar to calculate the date of Easter, while the latter still use the original Julian calendar. The World Council of Churches proposed a reform of the method of determining the date of Easter at a summit in Aleppo, Syria, in 1997. This reform would have eliminated the difference in the date between the Eastern and Western churches. The reform was due to be implemented starting in 2001, but it failed. See Reform of the date of Easter.

Computing the date of Easter, known as computus, is somewhat complicated. The Wiki page explains the traditional tabular methods, but also has algorithms such as the one developed by the famous mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss.

Easter has not fallen on the earliest date possible, March 22, since 1818, and will not do so again until 2285; it fell on the latest possible date, April 25 most recently in 1943, and will next fall on that date in 2038.

Western Christianity

In Western Christianity, Easter marks the end of the forty-six days of Lent, a period of fasting and penitence in preparation for Easter, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter Sunday. Lent really comprises 40 days since the 6 Sundays during this period are excluded from the Lenten fast, and are days that set apart to commemorate Easter Sunday. Alternatively, Lent can be said to comprise the 40 days from the first Sunday of Lent to the Thursday of Holy Week. Ash Wednesday and the four days following it, while penitential days, are thus not included in Lent proper.

The days before Easter also are special in the Christian tradition: the Sunday before is Palm Sunday, and the last three days before Easter are Maundy Thursday or Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday (sometimes referred to as Silent Saturday). Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday respectively commemmorate Jesus’s entry in Jerusalem, the Last Supper and the Crucifixion. Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday are sometimes referred to as the Triduum (Latin for “Three Days”). In some countries Easter lasts two days, Sunday and Monday, called first and second Easter day, or “Easter Monday”.

Pentecost is seven weeks after Easter.

Eastern Christianity

In Eastern Christianity, preparations begin with Great Lent. Following the fifth Sunday of Great Lent is Palm Week, which ends with Lazarus Saturday. Lazarus Saturday officially brings Great Lent to a close, although the fast continues for the following week. After Lazarus Saturday comes Palm Sunday, Holy Week, and finally Easter itself, or Pascha, and the fast is broken immediately after the Divine Liturgy. Easter is immediately followed by Bright Week, during which there is no fasting, even on Wednesday and Friday.

Other celebrations of Easter

As with other Christian dates, Easter is also commercially important, with big sales of confectionery such as chocolate Easter eggs, marshmallow bunnies, Peeps, jelly beans, and greeting cards.

In the United States, the Easter holiday has been secularized, such that the main holiday event for many Americans is the coloring of Easter eggs, followed on Easter Sunday by an Easter egg hunt, in which young children gather the eggs that have been hidden in their homes or yards. According to the children’s stories, eggs and other treats are delivered by the Easter Bunny in the form of an Easter basket which children find waiting for them when they wake up on Easter Sunday. The Easter Bunny’s motives for doing this are seldom clarified.


Some Germanic languages may have named the holiday after the goddess Eostre, although there is no direct evidence of this. It is equally as likely that the holiday was named after “Eostremonat”, which was the spring month it usually occurred in. After all, nobody would presume that “Good Friday” (which precedes Easter) is named after the Norse goddess Freyja merely because the day “Friday” is named for her.

  • English Easter
  • German Ostern

However, in most Christian-dominated nations, namely the European, the names of Easter are from Hebrew pésah (“Passover”):

  • Greek ?
  • Latin pascha (or Festa Paschalia)
  • French Pâques
  • Italian Pasqua
  • Lower Rhine German Paisken
  • Spanish Pascua
  • Scottish Pask
  • Gaeilge Cáisc
  • Dutch Pasen
  • Danish Paaske
  • Swedish Pask
  • Bulgarian Paskha (or Velikden)

Symbolism of Easter

The religious symbolism of Easter is explicitly Christian, with many elements adapted from the Passover celebration in Judaism—for example, the image of Jesus as the Lamb of God, which is linked to the Jewish paschal lamb. The Christian celebration of Jesus’ Resurrection also paralleled pagan celebrations of nature’s rebirth in the spring; the traditional customs of Easter eggs and the Easter Bunnys (originally a hare) are both tied to pre-Christian paganism.

Some Christian fundamentalists reject nearly all the customs surrounding Easter, believing them to be irrevocably tainted with paganism and idolatry. The Jehovah’s Witnesses do not celebrate Easter at all, believing it to be entirely a pagan invention 1.

When is Easter?

See also Computus.

West (Roman Catholic and Protestant)

  • 2000 April 23
  • 2001 April 15
  • 2002 March 31
  • 2003 April 20
  • 2004 April 11
  • 2005 March 27
  • 2006 April 16
  • 2007 April 8
  • 2008 March 23
  • 2009 April 12
  • 2010 April 4
  • 2011 April 24

East (Orthodox)

  • 2000 April 30
  • 2001 April 15
  • 2002 May 5
  • 2003 April 27
  • 2004 April 11
  • 2005 May 1
  • 2006 April 23
  • 2007 April 8
  • 2008 April 27
  • 2009 April 19
  • 2010 April 4
  • 2011 April 24

This content from Wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.

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