The Story of Easter

In Christian countries Easter is celebrated as the religious holiday commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the son of God. However, there are also many customs and legends that are pagan in origin, which are also part of the Easter celebrations.

Scholars, accepting 8th-century English scholar St. Bede proposed derivation, believe the name Easter is thought to come from the Scandinavian "Ostra" and the Teutonic "Ostern" or "Eastre," both mythological Goddesses of spring and fertility whose festival was celebrated on the day of the vernal equinox. Traditions from that festival survive in the Easter rabbit, a symbol of fertility, and in colored Easter eggs, originally painted with bright colors to represent the sunlight of spring.

The Christian celebration of Easter includes a number of converging traditions with emphasis on the relation of Easter to the Jewish festival of Passover - an important feast in the Jewish calendar which is celebrated for 8 days. It commemorates the flight and freedom of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.

In the West, Easter is observed on the first Sunday following the full moon that occurs on or following the spring equinox, which is March 21. It can occur as early as March 22 or as late as April 25. In the East, Christian churches observe Easter according to the date of the Passover festival.

Easter takes place at the end of Lent, which is a 46-day period of penitence that starts on Ash Wednesday and ends with the highest festival of the church year, Easter. Shrove Tuesday, or Fat Tuesday/Mardi Gras, is the final day before Lent and refers to the practice of the last night of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season. Lent is actually comprised of forty days. The six Sundays during Lent are not actually a part of Lent, but are considered a commemoration of Easter Sunday and are excluded from the Lenten fast.

The last week of Lent is the Holy Week, which begins with Palm Sunday. The name comes from Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem where palms were laid at his feet by the crowds. Holy Thursday commemorates the Last Supper, which was held the evening before the Crucifixion. Good Friday in Holy Week is the anniversary of the Crucifixion, the day that Christ was crucified and died on the cross.

Holy week and Lent end with Easter Sunday, the day of resurrection of Jesus Christ.

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