If you’re not from the UK, or Europe, or the Christian world in general, today's holiday might be confusing for you. What are people celebrating? Is it really a religious holiday? Why are there rabbits and eggs involved? In short, what is Easter? In this week’s blog, we’ll try to answer these questions and more.
What is Easter?
Easter is a Christian holiday celebrating the resurrection (coming back to life) of Jesus after he was executed in Jerusalem. Christians believe that Jesus was God on Earth, so Easter is an enormous celebration in every Christian church, rivalled only by Christmas. Easter is also preceded by 40 days of fasting and self-control, so Easter is a day for big parties and eating a delicious meal with family.
Why is the date of Easter different every year?
Easter is what’s called a “moveable feast”. That is to say, it’s a holiday whose date changes from year to year. The only thing that is consistent is that Easter is always on a Sunday. How do you calculate the date of Easter? First, find the Vernal Equinox (March 21), then find the next full moon, and Easter will be on the Sunday after that.
Why is it called Easter?
In most European languages Easter is not called Easter. It’s named after the Jewish festival, Passover, which Jesus was celebrating in Jerusalem when he was killed. In Hebrew this is pesach, in Greek and Latin it was pascha, so the name is similar in most Western European languages. Two big differences are German and English. In German the holiday is called Ostern and in English, obviously, Easter. This name comes from the ancient pagan goddess of Spring who was worshipped by the Anglo-Saxons. Her name was Eostre. The name stuck because Northern Europeans were pagans for much longer than the rest of Europe.
Why is Easter celebrated with rabbits and eggs?
The popular celebrations of Easter, with bunny rabbits and colourful eggs, have nothing to do with the religious celebrations of this holiday, which include going to church and praying. Rabbits and eggs, on the other hand, are old pagan traditions that survive into modern times. Rabbits and eggs have, for centuries, been symbols of fertility and Spring. They became associated with Easter, the major Christian, Spring festival and continue to be closely linked.
We hope that, if you weren’t sure what Easter was before, now you have a better idea. Don’t be afraid to ask when you’re not sure about something. You never know what interesting answer you might receive.
This is Ingla School of English‘s weekly blog, intended as reading practise for our students in Turnpike Lane, in London, and around the globe. We hope you’ve enjoyed it and take a look at the rest of our writing, much of which has activities for teachers to use in the classroom.
If you want to read more about different ways that Easter is celebrated in the UK, check out our previous Easter blog here.