Easter Overview

Easter Day, by religious definition, is the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. It is above all else, Christianity’s most important holiday. Many non-believers and young children may think that Christmas takes precedence because of the great spectacle of gifts, shows, trees, decorations, etc. However, faith in Christianity revolves around the idea Jesus sacrificed himself to atone for the sins of man, thus making Easter more important than the birth of Jesus.

Jesus Christ on the Cross

Easter, like Christmas/Hanukkah, Cinco de Mayo, and Mother’s Day, has seen its fair share of commercialization. For example, “Each Easter season, Americans buy more than 700 million Marshmallow Peeps, shaped like chicks, as well as Marshmallow Bunnies and Marshmallow Eggs, making them the most popular non-chocolate Easter candy.” 1. For more on the commercialization of Easter, click here.

The name of the holiday has unknown origins. Some historians claim that the name comes from “Eostre,” a Teutonic goddess of spring and fertility. However, “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.” 2

Easter is defined as “a moveable feast,” meaning the date upon which the holiday falls is different every year. Easter has close ties with Passover, which Christians believe to be the day the Last Supper took place. However, Passover follows a lunar calendar, allowing it to fall on different days of the week. “But, to follow the scriptural timeline of Jesus’ life, resurrection is celebrated on a Sunday.” To solve this problem, Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday following the full moon after the vernal equinox on March 21. Therefore, Easter can fall anywhere between March 22, and April 25. 3

Easter is a 41 day season of the Christian church, rather than a one-day celebration. Ash Wednesday, when followers receive ashes in the shape of a cross on their foreheads as a sign of mourning and repentance, starts off the 40-day long period of Lent. This period consists of reflection and penance, representing the 40 days Jesus spent alone. The week before Easter, is deemed Holy Week, including Maundy Thursday, the day of the Last Supper, Good Friday, the day of the crucifixion, Holy Saturday, the transitional day between the crucifixion and resurrection, and Easter Sunday. 4

“The Last Supper” Leonardo da Vinci

Easter in New York City →

  1. Johnson, David. “Easter Candy Facts.” Infoplease. 2000–2007 Pearson Education, publishing as Infoplease. 15 May. 2011 <http://www.infoplease.com/spot/eastercandy1.html>.
  2. “Easter.” 2011. The History Channel website. May 15 2011, 12:42 <http://www.history.com/topics/history-of-easter>.
  3. Herzog, Karen. “Easter Is ‘A Moveable Feast’: Why the Holiday’s Date Moves.” BismarckTribune.com:Bismarck, North Dakota News. 1 Mar. 2011. Web. <http://www.bismarcktribune.com/news/local/article_bf091b82-4446-11e0-8259-001cc4c002e0.html>.
  4. Elliott, J.K. “The First Easter.” History Today 29.4 (1979): 209. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 1 April 1979.

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