Hallelujah - it's Easter today!
Christians around the world celebrate the
Easter commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is the most
important Christian festival, and the one celebrated with the greatest
The date of Easter changes each year, and several other Christian
festivals fix their dates by reference to Easter.
Churches are filled with flowers, and there are special hymns and
songs. But not all Easter customs are Christian; some, such as the
Easter Bunny, are Pagan in origin.
Easter also refers to the season of the church year, lasting for
fifty days, from Easter Sunday through Pentecost; and, in the Roman
Catholic Church, to the eight-day feast beginning on Easter Day called
the Octave of Easter.
In most languages of Christian societies, other than English, German
and some Slavic languages, the holiday's name is derived from Pesach,
the Hebrew name of Passover, a Jewish holiday to which the Christian
Easter is intimately linked.
Easter depends on Passover not only for much of its symbolic meaning
but also for its position in the calendar; the Last Supper shared by
Jesus and his disciples before his crucifixion is generally thought of
as a Passover Seder, based on the chronology in the Gospels.
Some, however, interpreting "Passover" in John 18:28 as a single meal
and not a seven-day festival,interpret the Gospel of John as differing
from the Synoptic Gospels by placing Christ's death at the time of the
slaughter of the Passover lambs, which would put the Last Supper
slightly before Passover, on 14 Nisan of the Bible's Hebrew calendar.
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, "In fact, the Jewish feast
was taken over into the Christian Easter celebration."
The English and German names, "Easter" and "Ostern," are not
etymologically derived from Pesac. In most Slavic languages, the name
for Easter either means Great Day or Great Night.
In Western Christianity, Easter always falls on a Sunday from March
22 to April 25 inclusive. The following day, Easter Monday, is a legal
holiday in many countries with predominantly Christian traditions. In
Eastern Christianity, Easter falls between April 4 and May 8 between
1900 and 1970 based on the Gregorian date.
In Western Christianity, Easter marks the end of the forty days of
Lent, a period of fasting and penitence in preparation for Easter which
begins on Ash Wednesday.
The week before Easter is very 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 commemorate
Jesus' entry in Jerusalem, the Last Supper and the Crucifixion. Holy
Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday are sometimes referred to as
the Easter Triduum (Latin for "Three Days").
In some countries, Easter lasts two days, with the second called
"Easter Monday." The week beginning with Easter Sunday is called Easter
Week or the Octave of Easter, and each day is prefaced with "Easter,"
e.g. Easter Monday, Easter Tuesday, etc. Easter Saturday is therefore
the Saturday after Easter Sunday. The day before Easter is properly
called Holy Saturday. Many churches start celebrating Easter late in the
evening of Holy Saturday at a service called the Easter Vigil.
Eastertide, the season of Easter, begins on Easter Sunday and lasts
until the day of Pentecost, seven weeks later.
The traditional, liturgical observation of Easter, as practised among
Roman Catholics and some Lutherans and Anglicans begins on the night of
Holy Saturday with the Easter Vigil.
This, the most important liturgy of the year, begins in total
darkness with the blessing of the Easter fire, the lighting of the large
Paschal candle (symbolic of the Risen Christ). After this service of
light, a number of readings from the Old Testament are read; these tell
the stories of creation, the sacrifice of Isaac, the crossing of the Red
Sea, and the foretold coming of the Messiah.
This part of the service climaxes with the singing of the Alleluia
and the proclamation of the gospel of the resurrection. A sermon may be
preached after the gospel.
Then the focus moves from the lectern to the font.Anciently, Easter
was considered the most perfect time to receive baptism, and this
practice is alive in Roman Catholicism, as it is the time when new
members are initiated into the Church, and it is being revived in some
Whether there are baptisms at this point or not, it is traditional
for the congregation to renew the vows of their baptismal faith. This
act is often sealed by the sprinkling of the congregation with holy
water from the font. The Catholic sacrament of Confirmation is also
celebrated at the Vigil. The Easter Vigil concludes with the celebration
of the Eucharist (or 'Holy Communion').
Additional celebrations are usually offered on Easter Sunday itself.
Typically these services follow the usual order of Sunday services in a
congregation, but also typically incorporate more highly festive
elements. The music of the service, in particular, often displays a
highly festive tone; to supplement a congregation's usual
instrumentation is common. Often a congregation's worship space is
decorated with special banners and flowers.
Boris Kustodiev's Easter Greetings (1912) shows traditional Russian
traditions of khristosovanie (exchanging a triple kiss), with such foods
as kulich and paskha in the background.
In predominantly Roman Catholic Philippines, the morning of Easter
(known in the national language as "Pasko ng Muling Pagkabuhay" or the
Pasch of the Resurrection) is marked with joyous celebration, the first
being the dawn "Salubong," wherein large statues of Jesus and Mary are
brought together to meet, imagining the first reunion of Jesus and his
mother Mary after Jesus' Resurrection.
This is followed by the joyous Easter Mass.Some Christians wear their
Sunday best to Church. This means a more formal dress and hats for some
In Polish culture, The Rezurekcja (Resurrection Procession) is the
joyous Easter morning Mass at daybreak when church bells ring out and
explosions resound to commemorate Christ rising from the dead. Before
the Mass begins at dawn, a festive procession with the Blessed Sacrament
carried beneath a canopy encircles the church.
As church bells ring out, handbells are vigorously shaken by altar
boys, the air is filled with incense and the faithful raise their voices
heavenward in a triumphant rendering of age-old Easter hymns.
After the Blessed Sacrament is carried around the church and
Adoration is complete, the Easter Mass begins. As with many other
Christian dates, the celebration of Easter extends beyond the church.
Since its origins, it has been a time of celebration and feasting. Today
it is commercially important, seeing wide sales of greeting cards and
confectionery such as chocolate Easter eggs, marshmallow bunnies, Peeps,
and jelly beans.
Despite the religious preeminence of Easter, in many traditionally
Christian countries Christmas is now a more prominent event in the
calendar year, being unrivaled as a festive season, commercial
opportunity, and time of family gathering even for those of no or only
nominal faith. Easter's relatively modest secular observances place it a
distant second or third among the less religiously inclined where
Christmas is so prominent.