Concept, origin, history, meaning and symbols

We explain what Easter is for Christianity, its origin, history and meaning. In addition, we tell you what the Jewish Passover or Pesach is.

Easter in general involves processions, liturgical celebrations, and family gatherings.

What is Easter?

Easter is a Christian holiday also known as Easter, Easter, Easter Sunday or Resurrection Sunday. According to the biblical New Testament, it recalls the resurrection of Jesus Christ on the third day of his crucifixion.

It is the celebration that puts an end to Holy Week and the Easter Triduum, and that is carried out on a moving date, between March 22 and April 25 of each year in the calendar of the Catholic Church and the Protestant Church, and between April 4 and May 8 in the calendar of the Eastern (Orthodox) Christian Churches.

The commemoration of Easter can vary from country to country and from one specific religious tradition to another, but generally involves processions, liturgical celebrations, family gatherings and, in much of the West, the decoration of Easter eggs. In addition, from the celebration of Easter, the Easter Season begins, a liturgical period of 50 days that ends with Pentecost, in commemoration of the coming of the Holy Spirit and the beginning of the activities of the Church.

Easter is the most important festivity of the Christian calendar, since together with Holy Week it commemorates the central episode of its religious belief: the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth in the Roman province of Judea, between the years of 30 and 33 AD C. Despite this, Passover has clear and important links with the Jewish tradition of the Old Testament, specifically with Pesach or the Jewish Passover.

See also: Lent

What is celebrated on Easter?

The Bible says that Jesus rose three days after being crucified.

Easter Sunday is, according to Christian religious accounts, the day on which the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is commemorated. This would have happened on the third day after his death, after being crucified on Mount Golgotha, also known as Calvary. The resurrection of Jesus fulfilled the prophecies expressed in the Old Testament about the coming of the messiah.

Easter also celebrates the revelation to the faithful of the divine plan for the salvation of humanity, that is, for the defeat of death and the eternal salvation of the spirit. Christian doctrine establishes that the death of Jesus Christ purged all humanity of his sins, reestablishing the sacred payment with his creator.

Origin and history of Easter

Like many other Christian traditions, Easter has important roots in the Hebrew tradition expressed in the Old Testament, specifically in the celebration of Passover, that is, the commemoration of the departure of the Jewish people from Egypt, where they lived as slaves, to the Promised Land of Canaan, guided by the prophet Moses.

In this commemoration, the Jews also remember the plagues with which God punished the Egyptian people, and in particular the jump that the angel of death gave over the Hebrew houses when he went in search of the first-born Egyptians. This “leap” was called Pesach in Hebrew, a word that in liturgical Latin became pascha and later Easter due to its similarity to the Latin term pascuum, which refers to a place of grassland, that is, to a place where the flock gathers. free from hunger.

This transformation of the word is due to the triumph of Christianity in the times of the Roman Empire: according to the Christian reading, Jesus Christ, when resurrected, changed the meaning of the traditional Jewish Passover, making it represent the “jump” from death to eternal life. In both cases, however, it is a metaphor of salvation and protection associated with the divine.

Such is the coincidence, that the Christian Easter began to be celebrated in chronological agreement with the Hebrew, and it was done so for several centuries until the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. C., when the dates were separated. The latter is because the Hebrew calendar is governed by the moon, while the Christian calendar is governed by the sun. In addition, Christians emphasized the significance of Sunday, the day Jesus Christ was resurrected, while the Jewish Passover does not distinguish between any day of the week.

meaning of easter

The Christian Easter could be described as the Christian reinterpretation of the Jewish Easter. Not only because Jesus of Nazareth died and rose during the time of the Passover celebration of the Hebrews, but also because the last supper that the prophet had with his apostles served to transform the meaning of the traditional Passover meal and assign bread and wine an equivalence with the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

On the other hand, the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth was so important because it fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament about the coming of the messiah, the son of God, which constitutes proof of the coming judgment of God on Earth, in which it will be punished with death. harshness to sinners and the faithful will be saved. Thus, the “new covenant” of humanity with God would be possible thanks to the sacrifice of the messiah.

On the other hand, Easter in the northern hemisphere coincides with the arrival of spring, a season associated with rebirth and the end of the hardships of winter, in which there is no possible harvest. The pagan peoples of Europe celebrated spring in different ways, and Easter became a central symbol for it, thanks to the continuous evangelization that carried out in the European Middle Ages.

easter symbols

The egg is an emblem of pagan origin that represents what is about to be born.

Christian Easter involves different traditional symbols such as:

  • The Paschal Candle. The main symbol of Easter for Catholics is a large white lit candle, on which the letters alpha (⍺) and omega (⍵) are inscribed, the first and last of the Greek alphabet, to symbolize the eternity of Christ. The light of this candle represents the hope of the resurrection in the face of the darkness of suffering and death.
  • Flowers. Easter coincides with the arrival of spring, a time of rebirth in which everything turns green and plants bloom. This is symbolized in the presence of flowers, which in this way also become symbols of the rebirth of Christ and of hope in eternal salvation.
  • Easter eggs. The origin of eggs as a symbol of Easter is uncertain, and is not universal to all Christian traditions. It is very common in Europe and Eastern Europe, where the heritage of pagan peoples gave the egg a special significance, as an emblem of what is about to be born and of that which endures adversity with its hard shell to protect the life that exists. within. The ancient Romans, for example, thought that the universe was shaped like an egg. Eventually, this symbol was incorporated into Christianity, and Easter eggs became a common gift, either decorated in different ways, or made of candy, dough or chocolate, as a child’s gift.
  • The Easter bunny. The rabbit was not a highly regarded animal in medieval Christian tradition, which is why its presence at Easter is hotly debated. However, there are stories that associate it with the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth on Mount Golgotha: it is said that a rabbit slithered in when the tomb was sealed and was the first witness to the resurrection of the messiah. And when the grave was opened three days later, the rabbit emerged from it as a symbol of life reborn in the heart of adversity.

More in: Symbols of Holy Week

jewish passover

The Jewish Passover or Pesach is the commemoration of the liberation of the Jewish people from their condition of slavery in Ancient Egypt, and their departure for the Promised Lands of Canaan, as narrated in the Book of Exodus of the Old Testament (in the Pentateuch, equivalent to the Hebrew Torah).

It is one of the three pilgrimage festivals of Judaism (Shalosh Regalim), and begins according to the traditional Hebrew (lunar) calendar on Nisan 14, and then continues for 7 days (8 in the diaspora) during which it is prohibited. eating foods derived from fermented cereals, and eating unleavened bread (unleavened bread) instead. Special prayers are also usually said, ritual foods are prepared and work is completely stopped.

Continue with: Corpus Christi


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