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Easter - Holiday Origins

Easter is one of the most popular holidays, but not everyone knows its origins and how it came to be celebrated. Where did the idea of Easter come from? Why do we celebrate the Easter holiday?

Little girl with bunny ears on Easter

When did people start celebrating Easter?

Easter is also known as Resurrection Sunday or Pascha. According to the New Testament, it’s a holiday or Christian festival that commemorates the resurrection of Jesus. The resurrection took place the third day after Jesus was crucified by the Romans on the cross. Many people celebrate the entire Easter week and call it the “Holy Week”.

Christians celebrate Easter on the first Sunday after a full moon during the Vernal, or Spring Equinox. The date differs, but most often it’s between March 22 and April 25. While the exact origin of the name for Easter is unknown, there is a belief that the term itself comes from the Teutonic Goddess of Fertility named Eostre. The term Easter was also found in Latin, meaning white week.

The first Easter celebrations were during the pagan times. The pagan ritual of the Spring Equinox celebrated the renewal of life, and the changes that brought forth the Spring season. Unlike Christians that connect Easter with the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, pagans celebrated the beginning of Spring during Easter. They were honoring their gods and goddesses with prolonged rituals.

Why is Easter called Pascha or something similar in Europe?

In most European countries, Easter is called Pascha or a derivative from the Passover Jewish festival. In Greek, the festival is named Pascha. Italy calls it Pasqua. Then there is Paques in French. In Germany, the festival name is Ostern, which comes from the goddess name Ostara. In the case of English speaking countries, Easter is named from a pagan goddess described by the English monk Bede. Her name was Eostre—a goddess signifying renewal and Spring which is why her feast is usually attached to the Vernal Equinox.

Eggs, Rabbits and the US Easter Holiday

Kids dying Easter eggs

The idea to decorate eggs for Easter Sunday started during the Middle Ages. This practice is still very popular throughout the US, Europe and other countries throughout the world. Rabbits are a part of the Easter holiday because they are associated with the goddess Eostre and are a symbol of fertility. Folklore suggests that rabbits would hide the colored eggs and kids would need to find them. This has led to the tradition of the Easter egg hunt enjoyed by kids each year.

Boy with colored Easter eggs in bucket

Easter continues to be one of the most celebrated holidays every year. Easter is a symbol of hope and renewal, and for many, a time to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Although it has evolved into a very commercial holiday throughout the years, Easter is still one of the most popular and celebrated holidays of all, in part because it allows people to celebrate with their families and friends, and to look forward to the joy of Spring, and warmer weather ahead in many parts of the world.

How do you celebrate Easter?

Dad with daughters on Easter Sunday

  

Dad with kids on Easter Sunday

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