101Kidz : Holidays : Easter : History of Easter


History of Easter

Easter is the festival commemorating the resurrection of Christ, observed in the Christian churches today. By the first Christian, it was considered to continue the feast of the Passover, at which the paschal lamb, a symbol of Christ, was sacrificed. Hence, its name in Greek, French,and other Roman languages is taken from Hebrew "Pesach" = Passover. The English name comes from the Anglo-Saxon "Eostre" - the goddess of spring, whose festival was celebrated in April. 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. Early Christians observed Easter on the same day as Passover (14-15 Nisan, a date governed by a lunar calendar).

Easter is a movable holiday which implies it is not always held on the same date. In AD 325 the church council of Nicaea decided that it should be celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the vernal equinox of March 21. For this reason, Easter never occurs before March 22nd, or after April 25th. Easter is the Sunday after, properly speaking, "full moon" - meaning the 14th day after the moon. The Eastern Orthodox churches, however, follow the Julian rather than the Gregorian calendar, so their celebration usually falls several weeks later than the Western Easter. Easter is preceded by the period of preparation called Lent. Originally, the Christian Easter was a unitive celebration, but in the 4th century Good Friday became a separate commemoration of the death of Christ, and Easter was thereafter devoted exclusively to the resurrection.

Many Easter customs come from the Old World. The white lily, the symbol of the resurrection, is the special Easter flower. Rabbits and colored eggs have come from pagan antiquity as symbols of new life. Easter Monday egg rolling, a custom of European origin, has become a tradition on the lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C.