Easter

Easter is a Christian holiday commemorating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead on the Sunday after his Crucifixion on Good Friday and marking the end of Lent.
Easter is the holiest day in the Christian calendar, followed by Christmas and is recognised as a legal holiday in most countries with a significant Christian tradition, with the notable exception of the United States where Easter is only celebrated on Easter Sunday (not on Easter Monday).
The timing of Easter depends on the Jewish Pesach, in English Passover, which commemorates the sparing of the Hebrew first born, as recounted in Exodus, since it is during this holiday that Jesus is believed to have been resurrected.  In Western Christianity, Easter Day must always fall on a Sunday on one of the 35 possible dates from March 22 to April 25.
Easter and the holidays that are related to it are moveable feasts, in that they do not fall on a fixed date in the Gregorian calendar or Julian calendar (which follows the motion of the Sun and the seasons).  Instead, they are based on a lunar calendar like that used by the Jews.  At the First Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, it was decided that Easter would be celebrated on the Sunday after the 14th day of the first lunar month of spring (in theory, the Sunday after the first full moon on or after the day of the vernal equinox).


Eventually, all churches accepted the Alexandrian method of computing Easter, which set the northern hemisphere vernal equinox at March 21 (the actual equinox may fall one or two days earlier or later)  and the date of the full moon was to be determined by using the Me tonic cycle.
A problem here is the difference between the Western churches and the Eastern Orthodox churches.  The former now use the Gregorian calendar to calculate the dater of Easter, while the latter still use the original Julian calendar.  The world council of Churches proposed a reform of the method of determining the date of Easter at a summit in Aleppo, Syria, in 1997.  This reform would have replaced an equation based method with direct astronomical observation and would have eliminated the difference in the date between the Eastern and Western churches.  The reform was proposed to be implemented starting in 2001, but it was never formally adopted by any member group.
Computing the dater of Easter, known as computes, is somewhat complicated.  Easter has not fallen on the earliest date possible, March 22, since 1818 and will not do so again until 2285, it fell on the latest possible date, April 25, most recently in 1943 and will next fall on that date in 2038.
Historically, other forms of determining the holiday’s date were also used.  For example, Quartodecimanism was the practice of setting the holiday on the 14th day of the jewish month of Nisan.
In Western Christianity, Easter marks the end of the 46 days Lent, a period of feasting and penitence in preparation for Easter, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter Sunday.  Lent strictly comprises 40 days, since the six Sundays during this period are excluded from the Lenten Fast.  Alternatively, lent is sometimes said to comprise the 40 days from the first Sunday of Lent to the Thursday of Holy Week.
In this scheme, Ash Wednesday and the four days following it, while penitential days, are excluded from Lent proper.  The days before Easter also are special in the Christian tradition: the Sunday before is Palm Sunday and the last three days before Easter are Maundy Thursday or Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday (sometimes referred to as Silent Saturday).  Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday respectively commemorate Jesus entry in Jerusalem, the Last Supper and the Crucifixion.  These together are sometimes referred to as Triduum (Latin for ‘Three Days’).  In some countries Easter lasts two days, Sunday and Monday, called first and second Easter day or ‘Easter Monday’.  Pentecost is seven weeks after Easter.
In Eastern Christianity, preparation begins with Great Lent.  Following the fifth Sunday of Great lent in Palm Week, this ends with Lazarus Saturday.  Lazarus Saturday officially bring Great Lent to a close, although the fast continues for the following week.  After Lazarus Saturday comes palm Sunday, Holy Week and finally Easter itself or Pascha and the fast is broken immediately after the Divine Liturgy.
Easter is immediately followed by Bright Week, during which there is no fasting, even on Wednesday and Friday.  The Paschal Divine Liturgy generally takes place around midnight, into the early morning of Pascha.  Placing the Paschal Divine Liturgy at midnight guarantees that no Divine Liturgy will come earlier in the morning, ensuring its place as the pre-eminent ‘Feast of Feasts’ in the liturgical year.
As with other Christian dates, Easter is also commercially important, with big sales of confectionery such as chocolate, Easter eggs, marshmallow bunnies, peeps, jelly beans and greeting cards.
In the United States, the Easter holiday has been secularised, such that the main holiday event for many.  American colour of Easter eggs, followed on Easter Sunday by an Easter egg hunt, in which young children gather the eggs that have been hidden in their homes or yards.  According to the children’s stories, eggs and other treats are delivered by the Easter Bunny in the form of an Easter basket, which children find waiting for them when they wake upon Easter Sunday.  The Easter Bunny’s motives for doing this are seldom clarified.
The religious symbolism of Easter is explicitly Christian, with many elements adapted from the Passover celebration in Judaism, for example, the image of Jesus as the Lamb of God, which is linked to the Jewish paschal lamb.  The Christian celebration of Jesus’ Resurrection also parallels pagan celebrations of nature’s rebirth in the spring, the traditional customs of Easter eggs and the Easter Bunny (originally a hare) are both tied to pre-Christian paganism.
Some Christian fundamentalists reject nearly all the customs surrounding Easter, believing them to be irrevocably tainted with paganism and idolatry.  The Jehovah’s Witnesses do not celebrate Easter at all, believing it to be entirely a pagan invention.
The early Christians, many of whom were of Jewish origin, were brought up in the Hebrew tradition and regarded Easter as a new feature of the Passover festival, a commemoration of the advent of the Messiah as foretold by the prophets. The Churches of the West observe Easter on the first Sunday following the full moon that occurs on or following the spring equinox (March 21).  So Easter became a ‘movable’ feast, which can occur as early as March 22 or as late as April 25.
Christian churches in the East, which were closer to the birthplace of the new religion and in which old traditions were strong, observe Easter according to the date of the Passover festival.  Easter is at the end of the Lenten season, which covers a forty-six-day period that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends with Easter.
The Lenten season itself comprises forty days, as the six Sundays in Lent are not actually a part of Lent.  Sundays are considered a commemoration of Easter Sunday and have always been excluded from the Lenten fast.  The Lenten season is a period of penitence in preparation for the highest festival of the church year, Easter.
Holy Week, the last week of Lent, begins with the observance of Palm Sunday.  Palm Sunday takes its name from Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem where the crowds laid palms at his feet.  Holy Thursday commemorates the Last Supper, which was held the evening before the Crucifixion.  Friday in Holy Week is the anniversary of the Crucifixion, the day that Christ was crucified and died on the cross.
Holy week and the Lenten season end with Easter Sunday, the day of resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Focusing on the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the main message of Easter is a message of hope and revival the message that death is only temporary and that Life is eternal.