Easter is observed on a Sunday between March 22 and April 25.
The commonly stated rule, that Easter Day is the first Sunday after the full moon that occurs next after the vernal equinox, is somewhat misleading because it is not a precise statement of the actual ecclesiastical rules.
The actual conditions to determine the date for Easter are:
* Easter must be on a Sunday;
*this Sunday must follow the 14th day of the paschal moon;
* the paschal moon is that of which the 14th day (full moon) falls on or next follows the day of the vernal equinox; and
* the equinox is fixed in the calendar as March 21.
Easter is a religious holiday that commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ three days after his death by crucifixion some 2,000 years ago. ForChristians, Easter is a day of religious services and the gathering of family.
In many churches Easter is preceded by a season of prayer, abstinence, and fasting called Lent. This is observed in memory of the 40 days' fast of Christ in the desert. In Eastern Orthodox churches Lent is 50 days. In Western Christendom Lent is observed for six weeks and four days.
Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, getsits name from the practice, mainly in the Roman Catholic church, of putting ashes on the foreheads of the faithful to remind them that "man is but dust." Palm Sunday, one week before Easter, celebrates the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. Holy Week begins on this day. Holy Thursday, or Maundy Thursday, is in memory of the Last Supper of Christ with his disciples. Good Friday commemorates thecrucifixion.
Lent may be preceded by a carnival season. Elaborate pageants often close this season on Shrove Tuesday, the day before the beginning of Lent. This day is also called by its French name, Mardi Gras.
The name Easter comes from Eostre (pronounced yo'ster), an ancient Anglo-Saxon goddess. In pagan times an annual spring festival was held in her honor. Some Easter customs have come from thisand other pre-Christian spring festivals. Others come from the Passover feast of the Jews, observed in memory of their deliverance from Egypt.
The word paschal comes from a Latin word that means "belonging to Passover or to Easter." Formerly, Easter and the Passover were closely associated. The resurrection of Jesus took place during the Passover. Christians of the Eastern church initiallycelebrated both holidays together. But the Passover can fall on any day of the week, and Christians of the Western church preferred to celebrate Easter on Sunday, the day of the resurrection.
The Easter Bunny, a popular image of the holiday, originated with the hare, an ancient symbol for the moon. According to legend, the bunny was originally a large, handsome bird belonging to Eostre, the Goddess ofSpring. (Eostre is also known as Ostara, a Goddess of fertility who is celebrated at the time of the Spring equinox.) She changed the bird into a rabbit, which explains why the Easter bunny builds a nest and fills it with colored eggs. The first edible Easter bunnies were made in Germany during the early 1800s. They were made of pastery and sugar.
Around the time of the Civil War, Americans beganto celebrate Easter in much the same manner as Europeans, with children building nests for the Easter bunny to fill with eggs. Since that time, Easter has become a major religious and secular celebration in the U.S.
The egg is another popular symbol of Easter. Eggs were dyed and eaten during spring festivals in ancient Egypt, Persia, Greece and Rome. Colored eggs were not associated with Easteruntil the 15th century. Many Americans follow old traditions of coloring hard-boiled eggs and giving children baskets of candy. On the next day, Easter Monday, the president of the United States holds an annual Easter egg hunt on the White House lawn for young children.
The Easter Sunrise Service custom can be traced back to the ancient Pagan custom of welcoming the sun God at the vernal equinox...