The deeper meaning of Easter.
When we think of Easter, it can be easy to get caught up in images of cute, fluffy bunnies and baskets brimming with brightly wrapped chocolate eggs — but when we look a little deeper, there’s a lot more meaning to be found in this holiday. For millions of Christian communities and families around the world, Easter is a time to commemorate an ancient story of hope and renewal that still impacts lives today.
North American churches tend to follow the Gregorian calendar, which places Easter Sunday on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the vernal equinox. This means that Easter will always fall sometime between March 22 and April 25. In 2023, millions will celebrate Easter Sunday on April 9. For those within the Eastern Orthodox church, a similar moon cycle is followed. But according to the Julian calendar, Easter this year will fall on April 16.
The Story Behind Easter
While some of Easter’s associations with bunnies and eggs actually have roots in pagan celebrations for the spring equinox, the Christian holiday many of us are familiar with is tied to an emotional story of sacrifice and hope.
Easter commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is said to be the son of God. Through God’s grace, he was sent to Earth to save all people from their sins. Jesus dedicated his life to teaching God’s messages and living as an example, but he was eventually captured by enemies and sentenced to die on a cross. The Good Friday prior to Easter is observed by many with solemnity, as communities reflect on Christ’s suffering at the end of his life. Despite the somber story behind this date, the beauty of the story that follows is why it’s considered a “Good” day; without Christ’s suffering, humanity’s redemption could never have occurred.
After Jesus was crucified and buried, something miraculous happened three days later — when family and followers went to pay their respects at his tomb, they found the giant stone in front of it rolled away. Angels appeared to share that Jesus had risen from the dead. Jesus would eventually make appearances to his followers before ascending into heaven. These events are a cornerstone of the Christian faith story, where sins were “washed away” through a selfless act and God’s grace. This is why Easter is meant to be a joyful time.
Source: Bible Kids, The Story of Easter
Easter Around the World
As one of the oldest celebrations in the history of Christianity, the traditions of Easter are rich and many — they also look different throughout communities and churches around the world. If you visit many homes around this time of year in North America, for instance, you may find Easter lilies. Due to their trumpet-like shape, they’ve come to be associated with Christ’s triumph over sin and death, and renewal. These lilies are often gifted between loved ones and those within church communities.
For those in the Greek Orthodox Church, Easter celebrations begin on Holy Thursday, with the baking of traditional breads. Instead of multi-coloured patterns, eggs are traditionally dyed fully red to represent the blood of Christ. On Easter Sunday, many families will sit down to a symbolic meal of roast lamb together.
Throughout Spain’s Holy Week, Easter is marked by elaborate processions of floats, or pasos, under the Spanish Catholic Church. Scenes from the Passion of Christ are showcased with music, costumes, and incense.
In some church communities in Europe and beyond, Easter fires (or Paschal fires) are lit on the Holy Saturday to mark the beginnings of a two-day celebration. Often associated with ancient rituals where the warmth of spring symbolically chased away the winter, these fires also represent Christ's resurrection and how Jesus is the hope and “light” of the world.
For those within the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Easter is known as Fasika and is celebrated over a period of 55 days. It’s traditional to fast leading up to Easter, when celebrants will gather in church to sing hymns and wear their Sunday best.
The Start of Something New
One of the most beautiful aspects of Easter is how it brings so many families and communities together. For many, this is a time to gather with loved ones and celebrate a hopeful narrative that’s also reflected in so many of the changes we see around us during this time of year — the new sprouts in our gardens, the leaves returning to trees, and these brighter days after the cold of winter all speak to a sense of renewal and the beginnings of something beautiful.\
In this spirit of fresh starts, we invite you and your loved ones to consider adding a new tradition to your family get-togethers for Easter and beyond — start an intentional conversation around traditions and memories that make these times special to you. Not sure how to get started? Explore our Conversation Tool, where you can find questions and prompts for the whole family.
What are your favourite Easter memories or traditions? Share in the comments below!
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