Easter is the celebration of Christ's resurrection from the dead. It is celebrated on Sunday, and marks the end of Holy Week, the end of Lent, the last day of the Easter Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday), and is the beginning of the Easter season of the liturgical year.
As we know from the Gospels, Jesus Christ
rose from the dead on the third day following
his crucifixion, which would be Sunday.
His resurrection marks the triumph of good over
evil, sin and death. It is the singular event which
proves that those who trust in God and accept
Christ will be raised from the dead.
In the Gospels, the precise details of the Easter
narrative vary slightly, but none of these variances are critical to the main story. In fact, it is argued that the variances are simply matters of style and not substance. Despite the variances, the key aspects of the Easter story all match. Above all, they agree that the tomb of Christ was indeed empty, which is the most essential fact.
Based on direct evidence from the mid-second century, it is believed that Easter was regularly celebrated from the earliest days of the Church.
The Easter date is movable and always falls on a Sunday between March 22 and April 25. Easter in the Roman Catholic Church is always on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox.
What do eggs have to do with Easter?
Eggs illustrate new life, just as Jesus began his new life on East Sunday after the miracle of his resurrection.
When eggs are cracked open they are said to symbolise an empty tomb.
Originally eating eggs was forbidden in the week leading up to Easter (known as Holy Week). They were saved and decorated in the run-up to the celebration, and given to children as gifts.
Sometimes they were coloured red, in recognition of the blood sacrificed by Jesus when he was crucified. Green was also used to symbolise spring re-growth after the winter.
The first chocolate eggs appeared in France and Germany during the 19th century.
Where does the Easter Bunny fit in to all of this?
Rabbits and hares have been associated with spring since ancient times. It is thought that the Ango-Saxon Goddess of Spring, Eostre, had a hare as her companion, which symbolised fertility and rebirth.
It’s hardly surprising that rabbits and hares have become associated with fertility as they are both prolific breeders and give birth to large litters in early spring.
The legend of the Easter Bunny is thought to have originated among German Lutherans, where the ‘Easter Hare’ judged whether children had been good or bad in the run-up to Easter.
Over time it has become incorporated into Christian celebrations and became popular in Britain during the 19th century.
Many children believe that the Easter Bunny lays and hides baskets of coloured eggs, sweets and sometimes toys in their homes or around the garden the night before Easter Sunday – much like Father Christmas delivering gifts on Christmas Eve.
This has given rise to the tradition of the Easter egg hunt which is still popular among children today.