Every year, people look forward to celebrating the official arrival of spring during the Easter holiday. For many Christians, it’s a time to reflect on the death and rebirth of Jesus Christ. For others, it’s a fun holiday to enjoy with family and friends.
Painting eggs or hunting for jellybeans? Lamb with mint sauce or ham with mac and cheese? Sunrise service or sleeping in? Even within the U.S., the traditions vary widely — not to mention compared to Easter rituals in other parts of the world. Even if it’s your favorite holiday, are you sure you’re up to date on all things Easter?
We all have that one know-it-all friend who always has to remind you that many modern religious holidays actually started as pagan festivals. Easter is no exception. The annual celebration of spring, with its newly-emerging springtime plants and baby animals, predates the life of Christ by thousands, if not tens of thousands, of years.
When it comes to celebrating the spring equinox, regions as disparate as Egypt and Eastern Europe contributed symbolism and tradition to the celebration rites we now associate with Easter. From painted eggs to basket-carrying bunnies, our Easter rituals are more deep-rooted than we probably even realize.
The religious components of Easter weekend are obviously Christian-based. The three-day period marks the period between His death and His resurrection. For many, the previous Sunday, Palm Sunday, is a solemn time to reflect on the day Jesus entered Jerusalem, days before His death.
The actual date that Easter is observed varies from year to year. It’s a complex formulation, in which the starting figure is spring equinox (March 21). The Sunday following the first full moon after the Spring equinox is fixed as Easter.
This traditional equation means that the actual date changes from year to year, which is why some Easters may find you shivering during a March blizzard, or sweating out a warm April day. Unless you’re really up on your lunisolar cycles, the most accurate way to figure out when to stock up on jellybeans is to — check a calendar
For many Christians, Easter also marks the end of Lent. Lent begins about six weeks prior to the holiday, on Ash Wednesday. During this time, participants traditionally lead a more self-sacrificing lifestyle, whether it’s to participate in fasts, read more religious literature, or give more time and money to charity. In the U.S., Christians often give up a treat or “guilty pleasure” during the Lenten season — making those Easter basket jellybeans and rich dinners all the more welcome as Lent officially ends!
How deep does your knowledge of Easter go? Go ahead, take our quiz and find out!