Easter, the Christian festival remembering the crucifixion of Jesus on Good Friday, and his death and burial, followed by the celebration of his raising from the dead on Easter Sunday, is marked in Christian countries all around the world.
In the West, Easter brings an end to the 40 day period of Lent. Beginning on Ash Wednesday, Lent is a period of fasting, moderation, repentance, and spiritual preparation for the coming of Holy Week, which concludes on Easter Sunday. In the Eastern Orthodox Christian Churches, Lent begins one day after it does in the West, and does not conclude until Easter Monday, with no recognition of Ash Wednesday.
Across the world Christians celebrate Easter with special church services, the singing of hymns, candlelight, flowers and the ringing of church bells. In some countries, such as the Philippines and Spain, processions are held through the main cities and towns. Many towns and villages in Italy employ actors to create sacred dramas about the episodes of the Easter story on Easter Sunday. These ‘Passion plays’ were performed in Italy and across Europe every Easter during the Medieval and Tudor periods.
As with many religious celebrations, food plays a part during Easter. In Italy, pastries called corona di nove are baked in the form of a crown. In Poland, Easter Sunday is celebrated with the sharing of a family meal that includes ham, sausages, salads, babka (a Polish cake) and mazurka, or sweet cakes filled with nuts, fruit and honey. Christian families in Britain celebrate with a meal of roast lamb.
Alongside the serious religious significance and ceremonies, many Western countries, such as Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom–as well as Australia–, have fun eating chocolate Easter eggs, decorating chicken’s eggs to hide and then search for in Easter egg hunts.
Christians view Easter as the greatest feast of the Church year. It is a day of joy and celebration to commemorate that Jesus Christ is risen, according to Christian belief.
The four main biblical accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion, his burial and his resurrection, can be found in the following passages of the New Testament: Matthew 27:27-28:8; Mark 15:16-16:19; Luke 23:26-24:35; and John 19:16-20:30.
Dr Kathryn Bates is a graduate of archaeology and history. She has excavated across the world as an archaeologist, and tutored medieval history at Leicester University. She joined the administrative team at Oxford Open Learning twelve years ago. Alongside her distance learning work, Dr Bates is a bestselling novelist, and an itinerant creative writing tutor for primary school children.