Sunday, April 12, 2009
Easter (Greek: Πάσχα, Ethiopic, Pascha) is the most important annual religious feast in the Christian liturgical year. According to Christian scripture, Jesus was resurrected from the dead three days after his crucifixion. Christians celebrate this resurrection on Easter Day or Easter Sunday (also Resurrection Day or Resurrection Sunday), two days after Good Friday and three days after Maundy Thursday. The chronology of his death and resurrection is variously interpreted to be between A.D. 26 and 36. Easter also refers to the season of the church year called Eastertide or the Easter Season. Traditionally the Easter Season lasted for the forty days from Easter Day until Ascension Day but now officially lasts for the fifty days until Pentecost. The first week of the Easter Season is known as Easter Week or the Octave of Easter. Easter also marks the end of Lent, a season of fasting, prayer, and penance.
Easter is a moveable feast, meaning it is not fixed in relation to the civil calendar. Easter falls at some point between late March and late April each year (early April to early May in Eastern Christianity), following the cycle of the Moon. After several centuries of disagreement, all churches accepted the computation of the Alexandrian Church (now the Coptic Church) that Easter is the first Sunday after the Paschal Full Moon, which is the first moon whose 14th day (the ecclesiastic "full moon") is on or after March 21 (the ecclesiastic "vernal equinox").
Easter is linked to the Jewish Passover not only for much of its symbolism but also for its position in the calendar.
Cultural elements, such as the Easter Bunny and Easter egg hunts, have become part of the holiday's modern celebrations, and those aspects are often celebrated by many Christians and non-Christians alike.
The Easter Bunny (or Easter Hare) is a mythical character depicted as an anthropomorphic rabbit. In legend, the creature brings baskets filled with colored eggs, candy and toys to the homes of children on the night before Easter. The Easter Bunny will either put the baskets in a designated place or hide them somewhere in the house for the children to find when they wake up in the morning.
The Easter Bunny is very similar in trait to its Christmas holiday counterpart, Santa Claus, as they both bring gifts to good children on the night before their respective holiday. Its origin mentioned in print as early as 1620; can be traced to the German fertility goddess Ēostre.
Old English Ēostre (also Ēastre) and Old High German Ôstarâ are the names of a putative Germanic goddess eponymous of the the Christian festival of Easter. The goddess is attested by Bede as the namesake of the Anglo-Saxon month Ēostur-monath. Bede solely mentions Eostre in his 8th century work De temporum ratione, where he states that Ēostur-monath was the equivalent to the month of April, and that feasts held her in honor during Ēostur-monath had died out by the time of his writing, replacing the "Paschal month." The possibility of a Common Germanic goddess called *Austrōn-, reflecting the name of the Proto-Indo-European goddess of the dawn, was examined in detail in 19th century Germanic philology, by Jacob Grimm and others, without coming to a definite conclusion.
Eostre is attested only by Bede and subsequently scholars have produced theories about whether or not Eostra is an invention of Bede's, and theories connecting Eostra with records of Germanic Easter customs (including hares and eggs).