Easter: Billions of Western Christians exult in the joy of the resurrection of Jesus

Crosses, three, with light and orange

Photo by geralt, courtesy of Pixabay

SUNDAY, APRIL 1: Western Christians the world over revel in the resurrection of Jesus, rejoicing in the promise of new life: It’s Easter!

(Note: Pew Research estimates the world’s Christian population is 2.3 billion of whom about 300 million are Eastern Christians, who celebrate Easter on April 8 this  year.)

Following the solemn 40-day reflections of Lent and the Easter Triduum—Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday—Western Christians awaken on April 1 to a day centered on new hope. Often dressing in pastel colors, more than a billion men, women and children head to church for the festive Easter service, which typically showcases shining brass instruments and rows of blossoming Easter lilies.

Across the United States, it’s a holiday of family reunions, feasting and even parades in some communities.


The New Testament describes the events of the resurrection of Jesus, which Christians believe verify him as the Son of God. There is no recorded moment of resurrection in the Christian Gospels, but rather, the discovery by Mary Magdalene (and possibly others) early on Sunday morning—that the tomb was empty.

In his crucifixion, Jesus died on a Roman cross. That evening, according to Christian tradition, Joseph of Arimathea asked the Roman official Pilate for the body, wrapped it in linen cloth and laid it in a tomb. Saturday passed, and early on Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene (and, some Gospels attest, other women in attendance) visited the tomb of Jesus. To their surprise, the tomb’s stone was moved, and a messenger announced that Jesus had risen from the dead. Gospel accounts vary regarding the messenger’s specific message and the women’s response, but all emphasize that the empty tomb was witnessed. To this day, sunrise services are popular in some regions on Easter Sunday, echoing the traditional stories of the empty tomb.

First evidence of the Easter festival appears in the mid-2nd century, and today, an elaborate Vigil usually begins in darkness and gives way to the singing of “Alleluia,” trumpets and unfettered joy.


Pastel eggs on blue wood boards

Photo by Tiffany Pepe, Courtesy of Pexels

A traditional Easter menu often features lamb—a symbol of Christ at this time of year, as the Paschal Lamb. However, these days, Easter hams far outpace cuts of lamb. In America, egg hunts, treat-filled baskets and festive brunches mark Easter for many families, and for Christians, shared meals most often involve white-and-gold settings, fresh lilies on the table and, in many homes, a sacred Paschal Candle.

In France and Belgium, the bells that “went to Rome on Maundy Thursday” return home for the evening Easter Vigil, only to bring Easter eggs to boys and girls—or so, the story has it.

In most countries with a substantial Christian population, Easter is a public holiday.



EASTERN CHRISTIANS: Eastern Christians will mark Pascha (Easter) on April 8 this year.

Easter: Christians rejoice for the Resurrection of Christ

SUNDAY, APRIL 5: Christ has risen! Christians the world over shout in exultation on Easter Sunday, as the faithful celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. (Eastern Orthodox Christians will celebrate Pascha, the Orthodox term for Easter, on April 12, this year.)

The New Testament tells Christians that the Resurrection of Christ is the core of their faith. Around the globe, crowds flow into and out of churches, bells are rung in praise and adherents joyously profess their faith. Dressed in the pastel hues of spring, children search for eggs and baskets, while families and friends gather for the Easter feast.


Gospel accounts testify that early on the Sunday morning following Jesus’ crucifixion, Mary Magdalene (and, though accounts vary, other women as well) traveled to the tomb of Jesus to anoint his body. Upon reaching the tomb, an earthquake shook the ground; the stone was moved from the tomb, and a holy messenger announced that Jesus had risen from the dead. Though no specific moment of Resurrection is recorded, Mary Magdalene’s encounter has, since the 2nd century, been celebrated as Easter. The Resurrection is described as having occurred c. 30 CE.


Traditional Eastern and Western Christian services for Easter begin on the night of Holy Saturday with a liturgy that starts in darkness and gives way to light, exuberant singing of the Gloria and Alleluia and proclamation of the Resurrection. Many churches have moved the Easter vigil to Sunday morning in a “sunrise service” to reflect the women’s experience at Jesus’ tomb.

The Easter service differs from that of most Sundays, with its festive atmosphere often accompanied by richly colored banners, bells, brass instruments, fresh flowers and particularly joyous music. (Wikipedia has details.) In many Christian countries, Easter is a public holiday filled with processions and celebration.

The week beginning on Easter Sunday is known as Easter Week, or the Octave of Easter.

Did you know? The earliest Easter eggs were likely dyed red, in memory of the blood shed by Jesus Christ.


Looking for a great recipe or ideas to spruce up your Easter table?

Start with our own FeedTheSpirit, where Bobbie Lewis has an unusual treat you might want to prepare for your holiday table—vegetarian chopped liver.

Find delicious recipes, from appetizers to brunch to dessert, at Food Network, AllRecipes and Hershey’s.

Give eggs extra style, or try an Easter craft, with ideas from HGTV and Martha Stewart.

Kid-friendly Easter coloring pages, cards, games and more are at the UK’s Activity Village.

Lamb isn’t on everyone’s Easter menu—but it should be, says a food writer from the New York Times who recently penned a story on the small number of Americans who dine on lamb for the spring holiday. Learn cooking tips and all of the reasons why lamb should be making a comeback, in this article.