Easter, a celebration of Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead, is the holiest day of the Christian calendar.
According to the gospels of the New Testament, Jesus Christ and his apostles entered Jerusalem to observe Passover, the Jewish holy season that celebrates the Hebrews’ release from slavery.
After the Passover supper, Jesus was arrested, and on what is now called Good Friday, he was crucified. Two days later, he rose from the dead.
Those of Jewish origin were the first to celebrate the resurrection, likely as a new facet of the Passover festival. In fact, the Easter celebration was called “PASCHA.” It’s derived from the word “PESACH” (the Jewish translation for Passover).
Originally, Easter was celebrated two days after Passover, so it fell on any day of the week, but Easter Wednesday just didn’t feel right.
In 325 AD, Roman Emperor Constantine and the Council of Nicaea ruled that Easter must fall only on a Sunday, the day when Christ rose from the dead. Easter Sunday would be the first Sunday following the full moon after the spring equinox; it could occur anywhere between March 22nd and April 25th.
Around the same time, Christians began one of the first recorded rituals of the modern Easter celebration—the lighting of the Paschal candle. Its flame is a reminder of Christ’s resurrection—light out of darkness. As Christianity spread throughout Europe, different pagan customs blended into the holidays. In fact, the actual word “Easter” may have come from “Ēostre,” the Goddess of spring and fertility, which brings us to the Easter egg.
Eggs have been a mythological symbol of birth for thousands of years. Christians adopted the egg as an Easter custom sometime around the 13th century. The yolk inside a shell represented Christ emerging from the tomb. Eggs were painted red, representing the blood Christ shed from the cross.
The colorful Easter egg soon hatched its own traditions. A popular one was egg rolling. In 1876, Congress prohibited kids from playing on the Capitol grounds, so President Rutherford B. Hayes opened the White House lawn to the little rollers. Thereafter, the White House Easter Egg Roll became a tradition.
So, when did that Easter Bunny hop onto the scene? The fertile rabbit has long been a symbol of new life in European pagan celebrations.
Beginning around the 16th century, parents told children that if they behaved, on the eve of Easter, the Osterhase (the name given in Germany to the Easter Bunny) would come and lay colorful eggs, so the children built nests in their homes to entice the rabbit to visit.
Thus began the custom of the Easter egg hunt and the Easter basket. To help fill out those baskets, 19th century European chocolatiers began making egg-shaped chocolates, and the sweet trend spread throughout the world. Today, billions of dollars are spent each year on Easter candy.
Easter is a joyful day when Christians celebrate Jesus Christ’s resurrection. It witnesses the immense power of God Himself and the belief that God exists. Only He who created life can resurrect it after death.
1st Corinthians 15:54-55 “He can remove the sting that is death and the victory that is the grave.” In Jesus resurrecting from the grave, God reminds us of His absolute sovereignty over life and death. Jesus is the testimony to the resurrection of human beings, which is the principle on which the Christian faith is based.
Unlike all other religions, Christianity alone possesses a founder who transcends death and who promises that His followers will do the same.
All the other religions were founded by men and prophets whose end was the grave.
As Christians, we take comfort in the fact that our God became a man who died for our sins and was resurrected on the third day from a grave that could not hold him. Today, He lives and sits at the right hand of God.
For 2000 years, new customs have been added, some spiritual and some fun. But Easter is also the time for families to gather and to welcome spring, when new life emerges after the dead of winter.
For additional information, visit http://www.history.com/topics/history-of-easter/videos#history-of-the-holidays-easter-video.