The Christian Bible Reference Site


What is Easter?

Easter is the principal Christian feast day and commemorates the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, the central event of Christianity.  For Christians, Easter is the holiest day of the year.

In Western Christianity, Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the full moon that occurs on or after the vernal equinox marking the beginning of Spring. That date may be anywhere between March 22 and April 25.

What is Lent?

Many Christian denominations also observe Lent,  a penitential season leading up to Easter which begins 46 days before Easter on Ash Wednesday. Palm Sunday, one week before Easter, commemorates Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem the week He was crucified, when cheering crowds greeted Him with Palm branches. Good Friday, the Friday before Easter, commemorates Jesus' crucifixion.

Biblical Origin

There is some disagreement about the exact days of the week, but the Bible says Jesus entered Jerusalem and was greeted by cheering crowds on a Sunday, probably in the year 29 or 30 A.D. (Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-10, Luke 19:29-44, John 12:12-19). He ate The Last Supper with His disciples on Thursday (Matthew 26:17-29, Mark 14:12-25, Luke 22:7-20, John 13:1-38). He was arrested that night, tried, and crucified on Friday, Passover Eve (Matthew 26:47-75, 27:1-66, Mark 14:43-72, 15:1-47, Luke 22:47-71, 23:1-56, John 18:2-40, 19:1-42). Jesus rose from the dead on Sunday (Matthew 28:1-10, Mark 16:1-8, Luke 24:1-12, John 20:1-10) and appeared to His disciples during the following week (Mark 16:14, Luke 24:36-43, John 20:19-25). He then ascended to heaven 40 days after His resurrection (Matthew 28:16-20, Mark 16:19-20, Luke 24:44-53, Acts 1:3-11).

Related articles:
Palm Sunday - Jesus' Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem
The Lord's Supper - The Final Week in Jerusalem
Good Friday - The Crucifixion of Jesus
Easter - The Resurrection of Jesus

History of Easter

Jesus was crucified and rose from the dead at the time of the Jewish Passover celebration, but there is no mention of an annual celebration in the Bible. Early Christians commemorated Jesus' resurrection on or near the date of Passover, and the celebration was apparently well-established by the mid second century A.D.1 Due to the use of different calendar systems over the years, the dates of Passover and Easter have now drifted apart.

The word "Easter" appears once in the King James Version of the Bible (Acts 12:4), but that was a mistranslation of the Greek word Pascha. All other Bible versions translate it correctly as "Passover."

The English word "Easter" is believed to be derived from a spring festival for a pagan goddess, Eostre. The pagan and Christian celebrations occurred at about the same time of year, so the Christian celebration became known as "Easter" in the English-speaking world. In other languages, the name of the Easter celebration is frequently derived from the Hebrew Pesach (meaning Passover) or the equivalent Greek Pascha. It is known as Pâques in French, Pascua in Spanish and Pasqua in Italian.

Several ancient non-Christian traditions survive in children's celebrations of Easter. "Easter eggs" are colored in bright colors and used in Easter egg hunts or rolling contests. Rabbits, a symbol of springtime fertility, are depicted as the "Easter Bunny" in children's literature.

1Achtemeier, P. J., Harper & Row, & Society of Biblical Literature, Harper’s Bible Dictionary, Harper & Row, 1985, p. 233