The History of Easter

Easter is a time of Joy - It is a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the son of God.

Easter is the principal festival of the Christian church year. The origins of Easter date to the beginnings of Christianity, and it is probably the oldest Christian observance after the Sabbath (originally observed on Saturday, later on Sunday). Later, the Sabbath subsequently came to be regarded as the weekly celebration of the Resurrection.

Although principally a celebration commemorating the resurrection, the celebrations of Easter have many customs and legends that are pagan in origin and have nothing to do with Christianity

Scholars, accepting the derivation proposed by the 8th-century English scholar St. Bede, believe the name Easter is thought to come from the Scandinavian "Ostra" and the Teutonic "Ostern" or "Eastre," both Goddesses of mythology signifying spring and fertility whose festival was celebrated on the day of the vernal equinox. The English name "Easter" is much newer. When the early English Christians wanted others to accept Christianity, they decided to use the name Easter for this holiday so that it would match the name of the old spring celebration. This made it more comfortable for other people to accept Christianity.

The prechristian Traditions associated with the festival survive in the Easter rabbit, a symbol of fertility, and in colored easter eggs, originally painted with bright colors to represent the sunlight of spring, and used in Easter-egg rolling contests or given as gifts

The Christian celebration of Easter embodies a number of converging traditions with emphasis on the relation of Easter to the Jewish festival of Passover, or Pesach, from which is derived Pasch, another name used by Europeans for Easter. 

The Jewish Passover is celebrated during Nisan, the first month of the Hebrew lunar year. It is an important feast in the Jewish calendar which is celebrated for 8 days and commemorates the flight and freedom of the Israelites deliverance from about 300 years of bondage in Egypt. 

It was in during this Passover in 30 AD Christ was crucified under the order of the Roman governor Pontius Pilate as the then Jewish high priests accused Jesus of "blasphemy". The resurrection came three days later, on the Easter Sunday. The early Christians, many of them being brought up in Jewish tradition regarded Easter as a new feature of the Pascha (Passover). It was observed in memory of the advent of the Messiah, as foretold by the prophets. And it is equanimous with the proclamation of the resurrection. Thus the early Christian Passover turned out to be a unitive celebration in memory of  the passion-death-resurrection of Jesus. However, by the 4th century, Good Friday came to be observed as a separate occasion. And the Pascha Sunday had been devoted exclusively to the honor of the glorious resurrection. 

Throughout the Christendom the Sunday of Pascha had become a holiday to honor Christ. At the same time many of the pagan spring rites came to be a part of its celebration. May be it was the increasing number of new converts who could not totally break free of the influence of pagan culture of their forefathers.

But despite all the influence there was an important shift in the spirit. No more glorification of the physical return of the Sun God. Instead the emphasis was shifted to the Sun of Righteousness who had won banishing the horrors of death for ever. 

The Feast of Easter was well established by the second century. But there had been dispute over the exact date of the Easter observance between the Eastern and Western Churches. The East wanted to have it on a weekday because early Christians observed  Passover every year on the 14th of Nisan, the month based on the lunar calendar. But, the West wanted that Easter should always be a Sunday regardless of the date.

To solve this problem the emperor Constantine called the Council of Nicaea in 325. The question of the date of Easter was one of its main concerns. The council decided that Easter should fall on Sunday following the first full moon after the vernal equinox. But fixing up the date of the Equinox was still a problem. The Alexandrians, noted for their rich knowledge in astronomical calculations were given the task. And March 21 was made out to be the perfect date for spring equinox. 

Thus easter is observed by the churches of the West on the first Sunday following the full moon that occurs on or following the spring equinox (March 2I). So Easter became a "movable" feast which can occur as early as March 22 or as late as April 25

Christian churches in the East which were closer to the birthplace of the new religion and in which old traditions were strong, observe Easter according to the date of the Passover festival.

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