What Is “Easter,” Anyway?
By Rev. Rich Heinz
For two millennia, Christians have understood that Easter is not simply one day, it is THE day that our Lord and Savior was resurrected. Even more so, we do not celebrate it for just a day; Easter is a season – a “week of weeks” – seven Sundays with the weeks that follow them. Easter is the “Queen of Festivals” for the Church, as she celebrates her Risen Lord!
Why “Easter?” Isn’t it pagan?
Many Christians all over the world have simply brought the Hebrew word for “Passover,” pesach, through its Greek variation, pascha, into their own languages. The Last Supper, suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus are the fulfillment of the Passover that God gave ancient Israel. So Christians continued to call the observance and celebration of Jesus’ death and resurrection “Pascha.”
Varying theories try to explain why Germanic languages (including English) use an old Germanic word for spring, instead. One thing is certain, the hypotheses and rumors of Easter having pagan origins is completely bogus. From the first Passover in Egypt, in 1446 B.C. to the 1st century A.D. fulfillment with the cross and empty tomb, to our celebrations now, until He returns in glory, the Christian Pascha/Easter is much older than any coincidental European pagan traditions.
When is Easter?
Easter Sunday is the first Sunday after the first full moon of spring; not due to any pagan moon worship, but due to the fact that the Hebrew calendar used lunar months. The lunar month for Passover always falls sometime during March or April for our calendar; thus, the varying dates. From its vigil on the night before, to the Eve of Pentecost Sunday, 50 days mark this joyous season.
What is particular to this season?
Throughout the season of Easter, the Paschal Candle is lit. This tall candle stands near the altar for Easter-tide, and may be at the baptismal font for the rest of the year. Lit also for baptisms, it reminds us that we are baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection. Lit also for funerals, we are reminded that since we are baptized into Christ, His resurrection brings about our own! New spring flowers, especially the trumpet-shaped Easter Lily, are common in our churches at this time. This is also an especially joyful season musically, with abundant “Alleluias!”