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Jesus Christ's crucifixionEaster is the oldest feast of the Christian Church, and its principal ecclesiastical festival and holiday. It commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and celebrates His resurrection three days later.

As such, Easter is a movable feast, because it’s not fixed in relation to the civil calendar and not celebrated on the actual anniversary of the resurrection. Even so, Easter always falls between March 22 and April 25, inclusive, since it is celebrated on the first Sunday after the full moon, following the March (Spring) equinox on, or after, March 21.

Easter in reality is not a single-day observance, but an entire season of the Christian church year. Easter Sunday is preceded by Lent, the 40-day period that represents the time that Jesus spent alone in the wilderness. During Lent, fasting, prayer and penance are observed.

The last week of Lent is known as Holy Week, and includes:

  • Maundy Thursday (also called Holy Thursday), that commemorates Jesus’ last supper with his disciples, and its preceding foot washing;
  • Good Friday, honoring Jesus’ crucifixion and death; and
  • Holy Saturday, a day that is concerned with the transition between the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Easter Sunday is followed by a 50-day period called Eastertide (or Easter Season), that includes a celebration on Pentecost Sunday of Jesus’ ascension into Heaven.

Easter’s religious importance in many people’s eyes has (perhaps) been reduced, even tainted, by over-commercialism. It has also spawned a whole slew of “Easter traditions”, based on folk and pagan customs, including:

  • Easter eggsEaster eggs that symbolize new life, fertility and rebirth. During Medieval times, eggs were forbidden during Lent, so eggs laid during that period were boiled to enjoy during the Easter meal, and therefore in this way became popular with children. The coloring and decorating of Easter eggs is an established art, and those eggs have for many years been used in various Easter children’s games, such as egg hunts and egg rolls.
  • The Easter candy most eaten by children is red jellybeans.
  • Easter bunny postcard 1907The tradition of the “Easter bunny” (as a symbol of fertility) – and also called the Easter Rabbit or Easter Hare – apparently originated in Germany as a fantasy character that brought or laid Easter eggs for children to find, and German immigrants to America brought it here. Over 90 million chocolate Easter bunnies are made each year, and about 70% of people start eating them at the ears.
  • Easter baskets at first imitated a bird’s nest with eggs inside.
  • Easter cards were invented in Victorian England, and Easter is now the 4th most popular holiday for sending cards, behind Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Mother’s Day.
  • Smoked ham and sugared fruit are some of the traditional Easter foods.
  • The Golden Rose is a gold ornament that Catholic popes traditionally bless on Easter.
  • In the US, Easter ranks only behind Halloween as the busiest time for candy sales.
  • Modern Easter parades originate from the early tradition of baptized Christians who wore white or new robes throughout Easter week to symbolize their new lives with Christ. Today, people show off their finest spring clothes during this time.

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