Christians around the world are celebrating Easter, which is a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
It is arguably one of the most important date on the religious calendar. Easter marks the end of Lent, a 40-day period of fasting and reflection. The day holds the promise of victory over death, a new life and the forgiveness of sins.
Easter also commemorates the death of Jesus Christ. It is greatly influenced by the Christian faith as it reminds believers to remember the last sacrifice of the Son of God.
Here are six facts about the Easter you probably never knew about:
1. There’s more than one theory about where Easter got its name.
The word Easter has been linked to Eostre, an Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring and new life. Other scholars trace the name of the holiday to the Latin phrase “hebdomada alba,” which means “white week.” According to tradition, new Christians were baptized into the faith on Easter while wearing white clothes. The phrase evolved into “eostarum” in Old High German, becoming “Ostern” in modern German and “Easter” in English.
But in many other languages, the word for Easter is still deeply tied to Passover, the festival that celebrates the exodus of the Jews from Egypt. Jesus was crucified soon after he arrived in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover feast.
2. Easter has always been tied to the moon.
Since the Jewish calendar is based on lunar cycles, Passover falls on 14 Nisan, the 14th day of the first full moon of spring. Christians in Asia Minor used to remember the crucifixion on the 14 Nisan, and celebrate the resurrection on 16 Nisan. But this meant that Easter could fall on any day of the week. On the other hand, Christians in the West celebrated Easter on the first Sunday after 14 Nisan.
In 325, the Roman Emperor Constantine I gathered bishops from around his empire at the Council of Nicaea to hammer out a solution to this and other debates raging in the early church. The council decided that Easter would be observed on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox.
3. Easter falls on a different date each year
Technically, Easter falls on the first Sunday after the full Moon after the Vernal Equinox. The worship of Attis and Cybele was very popular in Rome as late as the 3rd century. Attis was a soter, or savior, god who was reborn each year. This resurrection was celebrated beginning on the Friday after the full moon after the Vernal equinox (now Good Friday). It culminated on the following Sunday three days later. Since they were rivals, Christianity adopted the date for their soter and, once the Cybele cult faded, Christians had to keep the date since that was when everybody was used to celebrating the holiday.
4. Easter eggs
The egg has always been a symbol of fertility, creation and rebirth. Many ancient cultures’ creation myths involved the earth being hatched from an egg. Though other societies may not have had such a creation myth, they still held the egg as a symbol of new life.
The ancient Persians and Egyptians exchanged colored eggs, usually red, in honor of spring. The Greeks and Romans adopted the custom, enlarging the color palette. In Medieval Europe, eggs were forbidden during Lent. This made eggs very popular at Easter.
5. The celebration of Eostre gave birth to the Easter Bunny
These early pagan customs also established the iconic myth of the Easter Bunny. These early people worshipped rabbits as god-like creatures because of their ability to mate and reproduce in astounding abundance. The Celtic Eostre, however, came with a legend that their god would turn into a giant rabbit at the rise of each full moon. Both of these views made this deity the fertility symbol of their respective faiths.
6. Easter originally had nothing to do with Christianity
Instead, it was a pagan celebration of spring and the rebirth of life after the cold winter months where only beards grew.