Easter is a Christian holiday that celebrates the central event of the Christian faith: the resurrection of Jesus Christ three days after his death by crucifixion. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the centerpiece of the Christian faith, according to the Apostle Paul, who even says that if Jesus Christ has not been resurrected then the Christian faith is worthless and futile. Therefore, without Easter there is no Christianity.
Easter is the oldest Christian holiday and the most important day of the church year. All the Christian movable feasts and the entire liturgical year of worship are arranged around Easter. Easter is preceded by the season of Lent, a 40-day period of fasting and repentence culminating in Holy Week, and followed by a 50-day Easter Season that stretches from Easter to Pentecost.
The origins of the word “Easter” are not certain, but probably derive from Estre, an Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring . The German word Ostern has the same derivation, but most other languages follow the Greek term used by the early Christians: pascha, from the Hebrew pesach (Passover).
The method for determining the date of Easter is complex and has been a matter of controversy . The Western churches (Catholic and Protestant) celebrate Easter on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox.
The Eastern churches (Greek, Russian, Bulgarian and other forms of Orthodoxy) use the same calculation, but based on the Julian calendar (on which March 21 is April 3) and a 19-year paschal cycle. Thus the Orthodox Easter sometimes falls on the same day as the western Easter (it does in 2010 and 2011), but the two celebrations can occur as much as five weeks apart.
Common elements found in most Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant religious Easter celebrations include baptisms, the Eucharist, feasting, and greetings of “Christ is risen!” and “He is risen indeed!”
In Roman Catholicism, and some Lutheran and Anglican churches, Easter is celebrated with a vigil that consists of “the blessing of the new fire (a practice introduced during the early Middle Ages); the lighting of the paschal candle; a service of lessons, called the prophecies; followed by the blessing of the font and baptisms and then the mass of Easter
In Orthodox churches, the vigil service is preceded by a procession outside the church. When the procession leaves the church, there are no lights on. The procession conducts a symbolic fruitless search for Christ’s body, then joyfully announces, “Christ is risen!” When the procession returns to the church, hundreds of candles and lamps are lit to symbolize the splendor of Christ’s resurrection, and the Easter Eucharist is taken.
Over the centuries, Easter Sunday has been supplemented by popular customs, many of were incorporated from springtime fertility celebrations of European and Middle Eastern pagan religion. Rabbits and egg, for example, are widely-used pagan symbols for fertility.
Some Christians disassociate themselves entirely from Easter eggs because of their pagan connotations. Other Christians view Easter eggs, or other candies and treats, as symbols of joy and celebration (as they were forbidden during the fast of Lent) and as a “taste” of new life and resurrection that they have in Jesus Christ. A common custom is to hide brightly colored eggs for children to find.