Easter will be seen as a lovely long Bank Holiday weekend for many people. For others, it’s a Christian religious holiday.
As a Jamaican, celebrating Easter has always been a tradition with its many observances. We don’t eat meat on Good Friday, and we give chocolate eggs to each other on Easter Sunday. As I grew older, I wondered where this tradition started and why. Let’s take a look.
What is the original meaning of Easter?
Easter is a Christian holiday celebrated around the world that commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who, according to Christians, was the son of God. Easter’s origins can be traced back to centuries before Christ was born due to its roots in Jewish and pagan traditions. These days, Easter is celebrated by many people regardless of their religion.
What is the story of Easter?
The Easter story is the start of one of the world’s largest religions. The Bible claims that the Romans crucified a Jewish preacher named Jesus who had a large following. Jesus was said to have been resurrected from the grave three days after being entombed. Through his sacrifice, he offered salvation to all humankind. Easter is supposed to be a holiday celebrating this miracle.
The history of Easter
The Christian celebration of Jesus’ resurrection is the most familiar Easter tradition, but it’s by no means the oldest. The holiday firmly has its roots in paganism and Judaism.
Historical evidence shows that spring celebrations centred around the equinox have existed for millennia-early versions of May Day. Due to their timing at the beginning of the planting season, many early pagan holidays included symbols of birth, fertility, growth, light and fortune overcoming darkness.
Several secular Easter traditions sprung from these ancient rituals, such as Easter baskets, flower crowns, and egg hunts. And even Easter’s name has a pagan origin. According to historians, Easter is named after the Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre, one of the significant figures in these celebrations.
As with many Pagan traditions, it made sense that early Christians would combine the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection with the traditional spring festival when they made their calendars of holy days. Thus, instead of focusing on the pagan goddess Eostre, the holiday’s religious history centres on Jesus Christ.
The story of Christ’s resurrection
When he claimed to be the long-awaited Messiah and son of God, the popular Jewish preacher was targeted by Jewish authorities. He was also viewed as a political problem by the Romans. Jewish authorities tried and convicted Jesus of blasphemy and sentenced him to death. In the brutal Roman style of crucifixion, Jesus was crowned with thorns and nailed to a cross until he died. His body was then dressed and buried in a stone tomb. According to Christian belief, he was miraculously resurrected three days later and returned to his disciples.
Easter serves as the foundation for many holy celebrations that lead up to it, starting with Ash Wednesday (the first day of Lent), Lent (the observance of giving up something you love for 40 days in honour of Jesus’ 40-day fast in the desert), Palm Sunday (the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem and was celebrated as the messiah), and Good Friday (the day Jesus was crucified).
Traditions such as baking hot cross buns and filling empty eggs symbolise Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection from the tomb.
Some Easter traditions derive from the concurrent Jewish holiday of Passover, which commemorates the Jews’ emancipation from slavery in Egypt. Easter feasts and many Easter foods are based on the Jewish holiday of Passover.
When is Easter this year?
Easter falls on Sunday, 17 April this year. Many other holidays have fixed dates (Christmas, for example, always occurs on December 25), but Easter’s date varies every year.
Based on the moon’s cycles, the holiday might occur on any Sunday between 22 March and 25 April. It can get confusing, so here’s a handy list of Easter dates for the next five years:
Sunday, 9 April 2023
Sunday, 31 March 2024
Sunday, 20 April 2025
Sunday, 5 April 2026
Sunday, 28 March 2027