While everyone knows that Easter brings out a festive mix of brightly decorated eggs, adorable bunnies, and cute baskets in spring, Easter is also a combination of important events in different traditions.
In Christianity, Easter is preceded by Holy Week. This week includes Maundy Thursday, which commemorates Jesus' last supper with his disciples; and Good Friday, which remembers the day of his death. These somber days are then followed by Easter Sunday to celebrate the day that Jesus rose from the dead three days after his crucifixion.
Easter is also related to the Jewish holiday of Passover, a period that remembers Israelites' freedom from slavery in ancient Egypt. This is observed during Nisan, the first month of the Hebrew lunar year – which also happens to be between March and April.
Also according to St. Bede, an English historian, the term "Easter" is derived from the Teutonic goddess of spring and fertility, whose name is Eostre. Pagans had festivals in her honor during the spring equinox, when daytime is equal to night time.
European pagan religion incorporated rabbits and hares in their celebration as a symbol of fertility. In Germany, pagans even named their hare "Oschter Haws" and early settlers introduced him to America during the 1700's. In their stories, Oschter Haws left eggs the night before Easter for the children to hunt and find on Easter morning – some children would even build "nests" for these anticipated eggs in baskets and bonnets.
Meanwhile, eggs were used to represent resurrection – a celebration of new life in Christianity. Likewise, many other ancient civilizations from India to Greece have used the egg to emphasize the significance of life. While the origin of coloring eggs is unknown, some reports date it back as far as 2,500 years ago where Zoroastrians painted eggs for a New Year celebration. Today, for varying reasons, beliefs, or for just plain fun, people from different cultures all over the world dye eggs and present them as gifts or as little treasures around Easter time.
Upcoming dates for Easter:
2011 -- April 24
2012 -- April 8
2013 -- March 31
2014 -- April 20
2015 -- April 5