When is Easter Sunday?
Easter Sunday is the most important date in the Christian church.
In the bible, it is the day when Mary Magdalene found that an empty tomb in the cave in which Jesus had been placed following his death by crucifixion on the previous Friday.
It signifies the end of the 40 days of Lent, meaning Christians who gave up something during lent to signify Jesus' time in the wilderness, can indulge themselves again.
Easter Sunday is also when church bells will be rung again, having been silent during Lent.
Why is it called Easter?
According to some scholars such as Venerable Bede, the name Easter is derived from 'Ostara' or 'Eostre', a pagan goddess of fertility, whose feast was celebrated on the Vernal Equinox. The word East is also derived from her names, as is Oestrogen, the female hormone. In Saxon culture, the Hare was sacred to Ostara and the modern tradition of the Easter Bunny is a distant echo of that.
However, In most languages other than English and German, the holiday's name is derived from Pesach, the Hebrew name of Passover, a Jewish holiday to which the Christian Easter is intimately linked.
Easter depends on Passover not only for much of its symbolic meaning but also for its position in the calendar. Read more about the date of Easter.
White lilies are the traditional flowers of Easter and are held or worn by many in churches all over the world as symbols of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The Easter Bunny is now an established part of the Easter traditions. In Europe and America, the Easter Bunny visits the garden of children leaving chocolate eggs and treats for the children to find on Easter Egg hunts.
Rabbits and hares don't have any direct connection to any Christian tradition and it is interesting to note that the pagan goddess, Ostara was always traditionally accompanied by a hare. The modern tradition derives from a German custom that was first recorded in the 16th century. It may seem strange for a rabbit to be laying eggs, but as eggs were part of the foods banned during Lent, then the reintroduction of eggs would have been a welcome treat, no matter how they arrived in the garden.
It was once thought that hares could give birth without conceiving, which may have made them a way of explaining the birth of Jesus to the Virgin Mary. It is also said that the sight of Rabbits appearing from their underground burrows is a reminder of Jesus appearing from the tomb after his resurrection on Easter morning.
On Easter Sunday, the traditional meat for dinner is lamb. The lamb was a sacrifice during the Jewish Passover, and it became a symbol for Jesus. It is also seasonal as Spring lamb is particularly tender and noted for its subtle flavour.