What is Easter?

What is Easter?

Easter celebrates the central element of the Christian faith: the resurrection of Christ. Discover all the information about the most important holiday in the Christian calendar.

What is the origin of the word “Easter”?

The Christian holiday of Passover has its roots in the Jewish holiday of Passover. The latter celebrates the passage from slavery to freedom of the Israelite people. It recalls the “passage” of the Lord who struck the houses of the Egyptians and spared the Israelites as well as the “passage” of the Red Sea by the Hebrews during the liberation of Egypt. The word “Easter” comes from the Hebrew Pessa’h, “passage”, which was translated into Greek (Paskha) and in Latin (Pascha).

In Europe, Celtic peoples honored the goddess Eostre. Some historians and linguists believe she gave her name to the words Ostern (in German) and Easter (in English) which means Easter.

What does Easter mean to Catholics?

For Catholics – and more generally Christians -, Easter symbolizes the passage from death to life. Easter Sunday closes Holy Week, during which Jesus, after his last meal, on Maundy Thursday, was crucified on Good Friday, and resurrected on the third day, Easter Sunday.

The Easter festival therefore celebrates the resurrection of Christ, his victory of life over death which is the central element of the Christian faith.

Since when do we celebrate Easter?

The Christian festival of Easter appears in the 2nd century. At this time, Christians in Asia Minor wished to solemnize the date of Jewish Passover. While Pope Victor (189-198) threatened to exclude these communities, most others chose to celebrate Easter on the Sunday following Passover, thus emphasizing the resurrection of Jesus.

It was the Council of Nicaea, in 325, which set a common date for Easter. It was decided that Easter would always take place on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox.

Why does the date of Easter change every year?

The date changes since it is calculated each year according to a rule established by the Council of Nicaea. Since a lunar cycle lasts 28 days, unlike our months which have 30 or 31 days, the two cycles intersect. Thus, there may be a month difference between two Easters from one year to the next, but it will always be between March 22 and April 25.

When is Easter this year?

This year, the first full moon of spring falls on Monday March 25, 2024. The celebration of Easter is therefore on Sunday March 31, 2024.

Easter Sunday closes Holy Week, which takes place this year from Sunday March 24, 2024 (Palm Sunday) to Saturday March 30, 2024 (Easter Vigil).

Why is Easter Monday a public holiday?

Easter Monday is part of the octave of Easter which consists of extending the celebration for 8 days. As an extension of Sunday, it is a week where we celebrate mass with the same prayers and the same songs as on Easter day. It reminds us that the Resurrection extends well beyond this celebration and concerns the entire Christian life. During these eight days, the newly baptized on Easter night always wear a white garment. It was generally a holiday week.

But in 1801, when the Concordat was signed between Napoleon Bonaparte and the Pope, the practices of the Catholic Church in France were reorganized. The first consul wanted to eliminate public holidays which numbered 50 at that time. He removed the public holiday following Easter to keep only one non-working day: Monday.

What are the differences and similarities between Pesach, the Jewish Passover, and the Christian holiday?

Passover is celebrated for eight days from the evening of the 14th to the 22nd of Nissan (this year from Monday evening, April 22, 2024 to Tuesday, April 30, 2024). In commemoration of the Hebrews’ exit from Egypt, the stories of the Exodus with the passage of the Red Sea are read during services or the family Passover meal (seder). Pesach is also an opportunity to celebrate the arrival of spring, the start of the harvest, hence the reading of the Song of Songs. During the eight days of the holiday, Jews are prohibited from possessing and consuming any food made from leavened dough (chametz). The day before, a major cleaning is organized to remove all traces of sourdough product.

Some similarities persist between Easter and the Jewish Passover. The Passover lamb is common to both festivals. Christians believe in Agnus Dei, the Lamb of God, that is to say Jesus Christ sent to earth who bears the weight of all the sins of men. Another symbol common to both festivals: unleavened bread which recalls the Last Supper.

Members of the Orthodox Church also celebrate Easter, but thirteen days later than other Christians, because their religion is based on the Julian calendar.

What is the difference between Easter and Passover?

Jewish Passover is in the singular while Easter has been said in the plural among Christians since the 16th century. This difference makes it possible to distinguish the Christian holiday from the original Jewish festival. It evokes the different celebrations commemorated at this time of the year: the Last Supper, the passion of Christ, the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, the son of God.

Eggs, bells, rabbits… where do these Easter symbols come from?

Easter bells. On the Thursday evening before Easter, the bells, which usually ring in churches, are “silent”, as a sign of mourning, to commemorate the death of Christ on Friday. Popular tradition imagines these bells flying to Rome to be blessed by the Pope. They return on Sunday to announce the good news of the Resurrection, dropping treats along the way. Hence the egg hunt, which is very popular with the children! In Germany, a white rabbit is responsible for hiding Easter eggs.

Easter bunnies, chickens and eggs. The custom of offering decorated eggs, a symbol of fertility, existed well before the Christian era. The ban on eating meat and eggs during Lent undoubtedly encouraged its maintenance. In fact, the eggs laid during Lent were then preserved, blessed, decorated and then offered to children. In Alsace and in countries with Germanic culture, it is the rabbit, another symbol of fertility, which is customary. The tradition of Easter chocolates dates back to the 19th century, when chocolatiers began making chocolate eggs to celebrate the holiday.

And why do we eat lamb at Easter?

The tradition is once again of Jewish origin. During the tenth plague of Egypt, recounted in the book of Exodus, the lamb’s blood, spread on the front door, would have helped protect the Hebrew people from the divine threat. Just as the shed blood of the lamb freed the Hebrew people, Christ sacrificed himself on the cross to save us. He, in fact, put an end, through his death, to all the religious bloody ritual sacrifices of the Old Testament.

From the Middle Ages, particularly through contact with neighboring Jewish communities, culinary traditions included the consumption of lamb during Easter. In Alsace, Moselle and certain regions of Germany, it is consumed in symbolic form: “osterlammele” or “Lamala”, a traditional pastry in the shape of an Easter lamb which is offered on Easter morning.

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