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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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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