THE NAME FOR EASTER comes from the Hebrew Word 'pesah", or Passover and was first associated with the Hebrew feast of Passover. Jesus was the true and final passover Lamb necessary to be sacrificed at Passover. Easter was celebrated at different times by the early Christian churches until 325 A.D., when the Council of Nicaea fixed the day as the first Sunday after the first full moon after March 21.
Easter always falls between March 22 and April 25. It is believed that the council probably set the date of Easter to fall near the time of a full moon so that pilgrims journeying to worship a shrine might have moonlight to help them find their way.
Today in the Christian countries Easter is celebrated as the religious holiday commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the son of God.
In many churches, Palm Sunday is the beginning of Holy Week, a week of observances leading up to Easter Sunday. Palm Sunday occurs one week before Easter and marks Jesus' entry into Jerusalem when his supporters waved palm fronds to celebrate his arrival.
The Friday before Easter is called Good Friday, and is a somber observance of Christ's crucifixion on the cross. The death of Jesus Christ on the cross made it possible for us to know peace with God. We celebrate our peace rather than observe Friday as a day of mourning or sadness.
Easter Sunday celebrates Jesus' resurrection. Along with Christmas, Easter is considered one of the oldest and most joyous days on the Christian calendar. Religious services and other Easter celebrations vary throughout the regions of the world and even from country to country. In the United States, many "sunrise services" are held outside on Easter morning. These early services are symbolic of the empty tomb that was found early that Sunday morning and of Jesus' arrival in Jerusalem before sunrise on the Sunday of his resurrection.
Although celebrated as a religious holiday many of the customs and legends are actually pagan in origin and have nothing to do with Christianity.
Traditions associated with the festival survive in the Easter Bunny, a symbol of fertility, and colored Easter eggs, originally painted with bright colors to represent the sunlight of spring, and used in Easter-egg rolling contests or given as gifts.
What is the origin of the Easter Bunny?
In pagan times, the "Easter hare was no ordinary animal, but a sacred companion of the old goddess of spring, Eostre. Since long before Jesus Christ was born, parents told their children that the magic hare would bring them presents at the spring festival. The presents were often painted eggs, as these represented the new life starting at this time of year." Hares are animals which look like rabbits, but are larger and in many countries quite rare. In most places, the Easter rabbit (bunny) has replaced the Easter hare completely.
The bunny was first used as a symbol of Easter in 16th century Germany, where it was first mentioned in German writings. The first edible Easter bunnies, made primarily of pastry and sugar, were produced in Germany as well, during the early 1800s. Also in Germany, children made nests of grass and placed them in their yards. They believed the Easter Bunny would fill these baskets with brightly decorated eggs during the night.