What is Easter?

Christianity’s most sacred and important holiday, Easter celebrates Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection from the dead. There are several Catholic, Lutheran and Anglican traditions prior to Easter Sunday that have interesting historical and Biblical significance and tie into Easter.

Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent in the Western Christian calendar that occurs 46 days before Easter. According to the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus spent 40 days fasting in the desert, where he endured temptation by Satan. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of this 40-day liturgical period of prayer and fasting or abstinence and sacrifice.

The practice of placing ashes on the foreheads of adherents of the celebration is where Ash Wednesday derives its name. The ritual practice of being anointed with ashes is meant to be a celebration and reminder of human mortality, as well as a sign of mourning and repentance to God. The ashes used are typically gathered from the burning of the palms from the previous year’s Palm Sunday.

Lent, following Ash Wednesday and lasting for a period of approximately six weeks leading up to Easter Sunday, is the preparation of the believer through prayer, penance, repentance, almsgiving, and self-denial. Traditionally, Lent runs from Ash Wednesday to Maundy Thursday (Holy Thursday) morning or to Easter Eve. In the Catholic Church, Lent lasts until Holy Thursday, while other denominations run until Easter Eve.

Its institutional purpose is heightened in the annual commemoration of Holy Week, marking the death and resurrection of Jesus, which recalls the events of the Bible when Jesus is crucified on Good Friday, which then culminates in the celebration on Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. During Lent, many of the faithful commit to fasting or giving up certain types of luxuries as a form of penitence.

Celebrated on the Sunday before Easter, Palm Sunday commemorates the day when Jesus rode to Jerusalem and was welcomed with open arms and waving palm branches. This is the last Sunday of Lent and the first day of the Holy Week.

The cleansing of the temple at Jerusalem supposedly took place on Holy Monday. It is also the day when Jesus reprimanded the moneychangers. The Holy Tuesday is the day when the famous incident between Jesus and the Pharisees supposedly took place; the Pharisees attempted to get Jesus to commit blasphemy.

Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Christ as predicted, did so on the Wednesday prior to Easter Sunday. Judas told the chief priests where they could find Jesus.

Maundy or Holy Thursday is the day that Christ and his disciples celebrated the last supper before crucifixion, and is the reason Christian’s observe the Lord’s Super where bread and wine are symbolically eaten in remembrance of the Jesus’ body and blood that were sacrificed to save human kind from sin.

Good Friday is the day when Jesus was crucified outside the walls of Jerusalem, on top of Calvary Hill. For many Christians this day is celebrated by solemn thoughts, fasting and abstinence to commemorate the pain and suffering of Jesus.

Easter Eve would be the Saturday prior to Easter Sunday and the resurrection of Christ. For a good number of Christian faiths, this Saturday is celebrated with the ceremony of baptism.

Finally, Easter Sunday is the day of Christ’s resurrection and the big feast. The Bible teaches that Jesus rose from the dead after His crucifixion and appeared before his disciples, joining them for a meal and telling them to carry on His works.

Easter is celebrated the world over to mark the resurrection of Jesus Christ – the Son of God. The young and the old, the rich and the poor, man and woman and people of all races celebrate Easter. It is the most important of all Christian holidays; leading up to Easter, however, there are also many smaller celebrations leading up to this paramount date though they might not be as widely known or recognized as Easter.