Easter Sunday celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ according to Christian belief. The date of Easter changes each year and is based on the ecclesiastical approximation of the March equinox. Today the Resurrection of Christ has come to be connected with the renewal often associated with spring. Many of the customs associated with Easter stem from that connection.
The customs of Easter vary greatly from place to place. Some places focus highly on the religious aspects of Easter. A church service is often an important part of the celebration, though the time of day that the service takes place is different in different places. Some churches hold their main service the night before after sunset. There, they light a blessed candle known as a Paschal candle, which symbolizes Christ rising from the dead. The congregation is sprinkled with holy water and Eucharist (communion) is given. Some churches hold this service early Sunday morning to represent the women who visited Christ’s tomb at dawn. These services are often held outside and are called Sunrise services. These pre-Easter services may be held in addition to festive Easter Day services. A popular religious symbol of Easter is the lily, so churches will often be decorated with lilies.
In many other countries, Easter is celebrated by Christians and non-Christians alike. One of the most common symbols in these countries is the Easter egg, which is the basis for many Easter traditions. The egg originally represented the empty tomb after Christ’s resurrection. Today popular traditions involving the egg include coloring eggs, egg rolls, and setting up egg hunts for children. The egg hunts often use plastic eggs filled with candy rather than real eggs. Many children believe that these eggs are brought by the Easter Bunny, who is like the Santa Claus of Easter. Some children receive Easter baskets filled up with sweets and gifts often including a chocolate bunny, chocolate eggs, and jelly beans. Another popular egg-based tradition is a game known as egg tapping or egg jarping in which children each receive a hardboiled egg. They spend the game tapping their eggs together. Whoever has the last intact egg wins.
History of Easter
Easter marks the end of the Lent season and the Holy Week, which celebrates Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. Easter Sunday itself is a day of great celebration as the end of these two seasons. The original celebration of Easter probably has its roots from similar celebrations held before Christianity began. It is strongly tied to Passover, a Jewish festival that celebrates liberation from the Egyptians. Easter celebrations probably stem from early Christians’ continued celebration of Passover.