For Christians, Easter is the most important religious holiday of the year. It is the day that Jesus Christ came back from the dead, according to the New Testament of the Christian Bible. The Gospel of John in the New Testament states that Mary Magdalene discovered Jesus Christ was missing when she went to his tomb and found it empty. An angel then appeared before Mary and told her that Jesus had risen. In light of that message, Easter was marked as a sacred and historic day for Christians. It remains unclear, however, how Easter got its name. Some historians believe that the word Easter is derived from Eostre, who was the Teutonic goddess representing fertility and the spring. Others believe that the name derives from the Latin word "hebdomada alba." This phrase translates to "white week." It is a historical reference to the holy Easter week. In ancient times, people who were baptized during the Easter week dressed in all white clothing.
Dates of the Easter Holiday
Although Christians around the world celebrate Easter, they do not always celebrate it on the same day. For many Christians, the date for the Easter holiday is selected each year based on the March equinox. In Western countries, which follow the Gregorian calendar, Christian churches typically celebrate Easter sometime between March 22 and April 25. The date each year varies but the holiday typically falls on the first Sunday following the full moon that comes after the vernal equinox. The vernal equinox generally occurs on March 20 or March 21 in a given year. In Eastern Orthodox churches, however, such as in Greece, Easter is celebrated on a chosen date according to the Julian calendar. For these countries, the Easter holiday generally arrives a week or two later than it does based on the Gregorian calendar.
Easter Celebrations Around the World
Around the world, Christians have different ways of celebrating Easter. In many Christian churches, festivities including music and songs, candlelight vigils, special church services and flowers. In some countries, such as Spain and the Philippines, the holiday is celebrated with a procession. In many countries, including the United States, a large feast is a central part of the Easter celebration. In addition to these shared common practices, there are some regional variations in Eastern celebrations. In Italy, towns and villages hold dramatic reenactments of scenes from the Easter story. They also bake special pastries and eat lamb and goat for the holiday. In Poland, Christians celebrate Easter with special food that includes sausage, ham, salads, babka and mazurka, which are sweet dessert cakes.
Easter in the U.S.
In the U.S., there is also a commercial component to the holiday. Chocolate has become an important part of the holiday, and children often participate in Easter egg hunts. Approximately 90 million chocolate Easter bunnies are produced annually, according to History. These components of Easter, in addition to baskets, eggs and flowers, are based on pagan traditions and folklore from around the world. Americans also consider family an important part of Easter, and Easter meals are usually planned as part of a large family gathering.