The His­tory of Easter

The Star (St. Lucia) - - EASTER -

Easter, which cel­e­brates Je­sus Christ’s res­ur­rec­tion from the dead, is Chris­tian­ity’s most im­por­tant holiday. It has been called a move­able feast be­cause it doesn’t fall on a set date ev­ery year, as most hol­i­days do. In­stead, Chris­tian churches in the West cel­e­brate Easter on the first Sun­day fol­low­ing the full moon af­ter the ver­nal equinox on March 21. There­fore, Easter is ob­served any­where be­tween March 22 and April 25 ev­ery year. Ortho­dox Chris­tians use the Ju­lian calendar to cal­cu­late when Easter will oc­cur and typ­i­cally cel­e­brate the holiday a week or two af­ter the West­ern churches, which fol­low the Gregorian calendar.

The ex­act ori­gins of this re­li­gious feast day’s name are un­known. Some sources claim the word Easter is de­rived from Eostre, a Teu­tonic god­dess of spring and fer­til­ity. Other ac­counts trace Easter to the Latin term heb­do­mada alba, or white week, an an­cient ref­er­ence to Easter week and the white cloth­ing donned by peo­ple who were bap­tized dur­ing that time. Through a trans­la­tion er­ror, the term later ap­peared as es­ostarum in Old High Ger­man, which even­tu­ally be­came Easter in English. In Span­ish, Easter is known as Pas­cua; in French, Paques. These words are de­rived from the Greek and Latin Pascha or Pasch, for Passover. Je­sus’ cru­ci­fix­ion and res­ur­rec­tion oc­curred af­ter he went to Jerusalem to cel­e­brate Passover (or Pe­sach in He­brew), the Jewish festival com­mem­o­rat­ing the an­cient Is­raelites’ ex­o­dus from slav­ery in Egypt. Pascha even­tu­ally came to mean Easter.

Lent, the 40-day pe­riod lead­ing up to Easter Sun­day, is a time of re­flec­tion and penance and rep­re­sents the 40 days that Je­sus spent alone in the wilder­ness be­fore start­ing his min­istry, a time in which Chris­tians be­lieve he sur­vived var­i­ous temp­ta­tions by the devil. The day be­fore Lent, known as Mardi Gras or Fat Tues­day, is a last hurrah of food and fun be­fore the fast­ing be­gins. The week pre­ced­ing Easter is called Holy Week and in­cludes Maundy Thurs­day, which com­mem­o­rates Je­sus’ last sup­per with his dis­ci­ples; Good Fri­day, which hon­ors the day of his cru­ci­fix­ion; and Holy Satur­day, which fo­cuses on the tran­si­tion be­tween the cru­ci­fix­ion and res­ur­rec­tion. The 50-day pe­riod fol­low­ing Easter Sun­day is called Easter­tide and in­cludes a cel­e­bra­tion of Je­sus’ as­cen­sion into heaven.

At Easter Chris­tians around the world re­flect on the life of Je­sus Christ: that he was cru­ci­fied, rose from the dead, as­cended into heaven

and will re­turn to save believ­ers.

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