festival of the Christian church commemorates the
resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is a movable feast; that
is, it is not always held on the same date. In AD 325 the
church council of Nicaea decided that it should be
celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon on
or after the vernal equinox of March 21. Easter can come as
early as March 22 or as late as April 25.
Many Easter customs come from the Old World. The white lily,
the symbol of the resurrection, is the special Easter
flower. Rabbits and colored eggs have come from pagan
antiquity as symbols of new life. Easter Monday egg rolling,
a custom of European origin, has become a tradition on the
lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C.
The name Easter comes from Eostre, an ancient Anglo-Saxon
goddess, originally of the dawn. In pagan times an annual
spring festival was held in her honor. Some Easter customs
have come from this and other pre-Christian spring
festivals. Others come from the Passover feast of the Jews,
observed in memory of their deliverance from Egypt
The word paschal comes from a Latin word that means
"belonging to Passover or to Easter." Formerly, Easter and
the Passover were closely associated. The resurrection of
Jesus took place during the Passover. Christians of the
Eastern church initially celebrated both holidays together.
But the Passover can fall on any day of the week, and
Christians of the Western church preferred to celebrate
Easter on Sunday--the day of the resurrection.
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Christians observed Easter on the same day as Passover
(14-15 Nisan, a date governed by a lunar calendar). In the
2d century, the Christian celebration was transferred to the
Sunday following the 14-15 Nisan, if that day fell on a
weekday. Originally, the Christian Easter was a unitive
celebration, but in the 4th century Good Friday became a
separate commemoration of the death of Christ, and Easter
was thereafter devoted exclusively to the resurrection.
According to the Venerable Bede, the name Easter is derived
from the pagan spring festival of the Anglo- Saxon goddess
Eostre, and many folk customs associated with Easter (for
example, Easter eggs) are of pagan origin.
Easter Day is currently determined as the first Sunday after
the full moon on or after March 21. The Eastern Orthodox
churches, however, follow the Julian rather than the
Gregorian calendar, so their celebration usually falls
several weeks later than the Western Easter. Easter is
preceded by the period of preparation called Lent.