SUNDAY, APRIL 24: It’s the Christian Feast of Feasts—and traditionally is the day of greatest joy for 2 billion men, women and children around the world. Today is Easter Sunday (also known as Pascha). Just as in 2010, Easter (Pascha) falls on the same date for both Eastern and Western Christians this year. In the decade ahead, East and West will converge only in 2014 and 2017—so enjoy this fleeting unity!
Around the world, Easter is a time to break fasts, dress your best and rejoice in the resurrection of Jesus. For Christians, today celebrates the core truth in the religion: Jesus, the Son of God, rose from the dead. (You can read Catholic viewpoints from the Global Catholic Network, or FishEaters.)
Experts agree the Western term “Easter” derives from the Old English word Eostre—a spring month of the ancient Germanic calendar that was named after the pagan goddess with the same name. In Eastern Christianity, today is known as Pascha—a name derived from the Hebrew Pesach, or Passover in English. An article from the Orthodox Research Institute discusses this name difference. One reason the dates of Easter vary between East and West is that Eastern tradition remains more tightly connected to the annual observance of Passover.
Following festive Easter services, it’s time for merrymaking! For weeks, traditionally observant Christians have followed fasting customs and many chose other forms of self denial. So, it’s high time for egg hunts, Easter bunny gifts and family feasts. (Kids can get more from Kaboose. Adults can click to History Channel’s Easter site.)
Lilies adorn churches and homes; shared meals often include lamb and lavishly decorated tables. (Southern Living has 10 Easter Lunch ideas.)
Although the Easter Egg Roll has been an American White House tradition since 1878, President Obama this year hosted the second annual Easter Prayer Breakfast—something he intends to make an annual event. (We published his entire remarks in this earlier story.) Obama told Christian leaders that his goal is practical: When times are difficult—faith helps.
The Resurrection of Jesus is so important in Christianity that celebrations continue into the coming week: Western Christians mark the days following Easter as Easter Week, and Eastern Christians call it Bright Week. The full season of Easter lasts another 50 days.
Stay tuned to our Festivals and Holidays column on Monday!
Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online journal covering religion and cultural diversity.