Easter is a major Christian festival celebrated to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus, three days after his crucifixion. Christians throughout the world celebrate the Easter festival on a Sunday, often called Easter Sunday.
The festival is observed annually; however, the dates of observance vary every year. The festival is reverently celebrated and is marked by plays, Easter stories and delicacies.
Easter 2019 will be celebrated on Sunday, 21st April 2019.
When is Easter Celebrated?
The date of Easter is fixed by a lunisolar calendar similar to the Hebrew calendar and the dates vary each year, a reason why it is also called movable feast i.e. not falling on a fixed date as per Gregorian and Julian calendars. The first council of Nicaea (325 AD), attended by over 300 bishops within the Roman Empire, did not specified that the festival must be celebrated on a Sunday; however, it was a common practice by then.
In western countries following the Gregorian calendar, Easter falls on a Sunday between 22nd March and 25th April, that too within seven days of astronomical full moon. On the other hand, eastern Christianity follows Julian calendar and Julian full moon is later than the astronomical full moon, eastern Easter is celebrated later than western Easter. It is celebrated the Sunday following the fourteenth day of Paschal (Passover) lunar month.
Meaning of Easter
“Easter” is modern English, having the same origin as the modern Dutch word “ooster” and German word “Ostern”. The name is believed t be derived from the name of an English Goddess called “Eostre”.
Origin and History of Easter
Jewish Christians were the first to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, more prominently sometime around the middle of 2nd century. The earliest reference was made by a bishop name Melito of Sardis, who illustrated the celebration as a well established one.
Evidences are also found, of a Christian festival commemorating the martyrs, celebrated around the same time as Easter. The festival of martyr’s was celebrated on a fixed date as per local solar calendar, while the date for Easter was fixed based on the Jewish lunisolar calendar. This provides evidence for Easter being an ancient Jewish festival.
The uniform observance of Easter by the Christian community across the world was propagated by the First Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, which was attended by over 300 bishops from across the Roman Empire. It was a council of Christian Bishops held in the Bithynian city of Nicaea, present day iznik in Bursa province, Turkey.
According to the Christians, the origin of Easter is the day of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, on the third day of his crucifixion, around 2000 years ago. As per the belief, Jesus Christ was crucified and resurrected three days later at the time of Jewish Passover.
Easter Monday is the day after Easter Sunday and is observed as a holiday in some countries. In east this day is also called “Bright Monday” or “Renewal Monday”. In fact, the week succeeding Easter Sunday is called Easter Week ach day is prefaced with Easter. That is, Easter Monday, Easter Tuesday etc.
How is Easter Celebrated
Churches around the globe are the main centre for celebrating Easter Sunday. Special church services are held, music is played and church bells are ringed amid candles and flowers. Some countries have the tradition of taking out Easter processions.
In western Christianity, forty days preceding the Easter are observed as a period of fasting and penance. The week before the Easter is called “Holy Week” and is very significant in Christian tradition.
Plays are enacted and sermons about Jesus Christ and his crucifixion and resurrection are given. People, especially children wear new clothes and engage in fun activities like Easter egg hunt. Children are gifted with Easter egg basket, containing chocolates, toys etc. Various delicacies are also prepared for the great feast.
These days the celebration of Easter has been hugely commercialized. In the course of time, eggs have become symbol of Easter celebrations. Probably because they are life less from outside, but they conceal life within, which is ultimately going to break free. Some of the early Christians dyed the inside of boiled egg as read, to represent the blood of Jesus Christ.
Eggshells with various patterns of paintings on them are sold in shops. Shops sell masks and dresses for Easter parties. People dress up in new costumes wearing masks, to celebrate the Easter Sunday. Sale of chocolates also sky rocket during Easter, as Easter marks the end of a forty day fast.
Significance of Easter
Jesus Christ is the central figure of Christianity. Easter is celebrated to commemorate his resurrection after he was crucified on Good Friday. Resurrection of Jesus Christ, celebrated as Easter, forms the foundation of Christianity and establishes Jesus Christ as the son of God. The festival signifies the victory over death by Jesus’ resurrection, and anyone who follows Jesus is spiritually resurrected with him.
Many orthodox Christians cut down entertainment and all related worldly activities beginning from the great lent until Holy Friday. They indulge in alms giving and praying, giving them a chance to enlighten spiritually and understand their religion.
Non Celebrating Christian Communities
During the 16th century protestant reformation in Europe, the practice of Easter celebration was abandoned, as it was believed to be evolved from a spring festival of Pagans, a term used to indicate polytheism or the people who worship multiple Gods. There is also a legend associated with the spring festival as given below.
The origin of Easter lies in an ancient Pagan celebration and the events surrounding the great flood as mentioned in Genesis 6-9 of Bible. One of the grand sons of Noah, named Nimrod, refused to accept the same God as his grandfather. Nimrod grew up to become a cruel and dictatorial ruler, creating cities known for their unparalleled evils. He was married to a queen named Sammu-Ramamt more famously called Semiramis.
After Nimrod’s death, queen Semiramis objectified him as the Sun God or the provider of life. Later he was called “Baal” and the people worshipping him were called Baal worshippers. They were associated with all kinds of evil exercises and rituals including human sacrifices.
In the mean time Semiramis gave birth to an illegitimate child named Tammuz, and somehow she was successful in convincing the people that Tammuz was Nimrod’s reincarnation. She also convinced the people that Tammuz was conceived supernaturally and he was the savoir they had been looking since ages. Thus, people started worshipping Tammuz as their savior and Semiramis as the goddess of fertility.
When Tammuz was killed by a wild boar, the legend has it that he was resurrected in vegetation, through the power of his mother’s tears. This day of Tammuz’s resurrection was supposedly evolved to be celebrated as Easter, and is therefore abandoned by Christian hard liners.
Facts of Easter
There are a few interesting facts related to the festival of Easter, as given below-
- Easter is celebrated as Jesus Christ’s resurrection day, on the third day of his crucifixion.
- There is no fixed date of annual Easter celebration.
- It is always celebrated on a Sunday as Jesus Christ was crucified on Friday.
- Sunday already being a holiday, many Christian countries observe Holiday on the following Monday.
- Easter Sunday is preceded by a forty days period of prayer and fasting, known as the great lent.
- The week before Easter is called the holy week which includes, holy Wednesday, Holy Thursday and Good Friday.
- Easter is celebrated on ecclesiastical full moon, soon after 21st
- 21st March in Julian calendar, corresponds to 3rd April in Gregorian calendar.
- Americans spend almost 20 billion dollars on Easter annually.
- In western Christianity, Easter is preceded by a forty days period of fasting and penance, called “Lent”, beginning with “Ash Wednesday”.
- In Eastern Christianity, Easter is preceded by a forty days period of fasting called “Great Lent”, beginning with “Clean Monday”.