Easter Origins

Easter is the festival celebrating the resurrection of Jesus.  Although the Bible makes no provision for the observance of Easter as the day of resurrection, evidence suggests that the celebration began at an early stage of the history of the church.  Easter has its roots in the Jewish Passover, which commemorates Israel's deliverance from Egypt under Moses.  The early church saw strong parallels between the deliverance of Israel, and the deliverance through the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus (which took place during the Passover).  Early Christians observed Easter on the same day as Passover (14-15 Nisan, a date governed by a lunar calendar). In the 2nd century, a bitter struggle commenced which resulted (in the 4th century) in the Christian celebration being transferred to the Sunday following the 14-15 Nisan, if that day fell on a weekday. Together with Pentecost and Epiphany, Easter became the final parts of the church year.  Originally, the Christian Easter was a single celebration, but in the 4th century Good Friday became a separate commemoration of the death of Christ, and Easter was thereafter devoted exclusively to the resurrection.

The name Easter appears to be derived from the pagan spring festival of the Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre, and many folk customs associated with Easter (for example, Easter eggs) are of pagan origin. Easter Day is currently determined as the first Sunday after the full moon on or after March 21. The Eastern Orthodox churches, however, follow the Julian rather than the Gregorian calendar, so their celebration usually falls several weeks later than the Western celebration of Easter.

March 17, 1996
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