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Easter History

While awaiting the arrival of Easter Sunday, learn the history behind the beloved holiday!

By 200 AD, Christian beliefs were gradually being accepted by many in society. When the age-old spring festivals came around, Christians chose to celebrate as a time to remember the crucifixion and miraculous rebirth of their savior.

Christianity tells us that Jesus Christ was ordered to be put to death by Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor in 30 AD. Nailed to a cross, Christ suffered horribly and three days later rose from the dead into heaven.

Though most today know Easter Sunday as a Christian holiday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, it is a holiday rich in both folklore and mutli-religious celebrations. During ancient times, the Anglo-Saxons would celebrate the onset of the spring season with a festival in honor of "Eastra" the goddess of spring and renewal, who was idolized on Earth as a rabbit. Many of the symbols found in our modern Easter celebrations are adopted from these ancient pagan practices including the ideas of rebirth, fertility, the Easter bunny and Easter eggs.

Coincidentally, the Resurrection took place during Passover, a Jewish celebration commemorating the exodus of the Hebrews enslaved in Egypt. Christians of the day had roots in Judaism and for a while Easter and Passover were celebrated together.The New Testament teaches us that Jesus gave new meaning to the Passover meal when he gathered his disciples at the Last Supper to prepare them and Himself for his death. He identified the loaf of bread and cup of wine as his body and blood soon to be sacrificed, giving way to the allegory of Jesus as the Paschal Lamb. Learn more about Passover's history.

During the 4th century, Christians began to observe Good Friday, the day of Christ's crucifixion. In 325 AD, the council of Nicaea established that Easter was to be celebrated on the Sunday on or after the first full moon of the spring equinox. Around this time Good Friday and Easter became Christian holidays and Passover solely Jewish.

Easter is the final event in a period of religious observance:

Lent, a time of penitence including some fasting, is 40 days prior to Easter and starts with Ash Wednesday.

The day before Ash Wednesday is widely and wildly celebrated around the world as Mardi Gras and Carnival. "Mardi Gras," French for Fat Tuesday, is a raucous day of feasting before the solemnity of Lent.

Then Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday, representing Jesus' return to Jerusalem. Maundy Thursday symbolizes the Last Supper of Christ followed by Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

German settlers in the Pennsylvania Dutch community are documented as bringing some Easter traditions to this country in the 18th century and the festivities grew in popularity after the civil war. Probably the most sacred holiday for Christians around the world, Easter is a divine celebration of life eternal.

Countries all over the world have their own way of celebrating. In the U.S, dying hard boiled eggs is one of the most popular Easter activities. The Easter Bunny has become the icon of the holiday, known for handing out chocolate eggs and hiding eggs in the popularized egg hunt.


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Meet our Writer
Jennifer Geddes
Celebrations Writer

Jennifer Kelly Geddes has hosted Christmas cookie swaps, New Year's open houses, Thanksgiving for 22, and all manner of dinner parties in her Manhattan and Ghent, NY homes.

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Exotic Cocktail Recipe Video Link to video gallery. Upgrade your spring sips with this cocktail tutorial. »

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