Easter is the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Easter’s arrival is greeted with a jubilant rejoicing in that the son of God has risen up from the dead – resurrected from his crucifixion; as such it is known the world over as the single most important religious holiday of the Christian religion!
Easter is one of the very few ‘movable’ holidays because it does not fall on the same day every year. Since A.D. 325, Western Christian churches celebrate Easter on the first Sunday after the full moon following the vernal equinox on March 21; thus Easter falls anywhere in between March 22 and April 25. Eastern, or Orthodox, Christians use the Julian calendar to calculate when Easter should occur and therefore typically celebrate it one or two weeks after the Western Christian churches.
There are multiple versions explaining where the name of the holiday originated from. Some say that it refers to the Latin term for the white clothing donned by baptized people and others state that it was a derivative of Eostre – the Teutonic goddess of spring and also of fertility.
In the Christian church, the Easter holiday is more than a single-day observance, spanning the course of several months. There are 40 days leading up to Easter Sunday that are to be used by Christians as a time of penance and of reflection. These 40 days begin on Ash Wednesday, which immediately follows Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras is a raucous party of food, drink and fun before the fasting of Lent begins for 40 days. The only break during Lent is for Saint Patrick’s Day on March 17th. The 40 days are said to represent the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness, alone, being tempted by the devil. The last week of this 40-day period is known as the Holy Week and begins with Passover, and also includes Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.
The period after Easter is called Eastertide and is a 50-day period that includes celebrations to rejoice in the glory of Jesus’ ascension to heaven. This makes the Easter religious holiday one of the longest and most revered of all religious festivals.
In recent times the holiday has become a very secular event with many commercial and retail opportunities to represent spring, mostly. But many of these objects represent Chris either as a symbol of rebirth, religious sacrifice, or the empty tomb of Christ. Even the Easter Bunny is derived as a symbol of fertility – a direct representation of spring and an indirect relation to the pagan goddess Eostre. The Easter egg itself represents new life and rebirth. Therefore, even the seemingly commercialization of Easter products truly represent the joyous occasion of Christ’s resurrection.