Easter, Latin Pascha, Greek Pascha, is a principal festival of the Christian church, which celebrates the Resurrection of Jesus Christ on the third day after his Crucifixion.
The earliest recorded observance of an Easter celebration comes from the 2nd century, though the commemoration of Jesus’ Resurrection probably occurred earlier.
There is now widespread consensus that the word derives from the Christian designation of Easter week as in albis, a Latin phrase that was understood as the plural of alba (“dawn”) and became eostarum in Old High German, the precursor of the modern German and English term. The Latin and Greek Pascha (“Passover”) provides the root for Pâques, the French word for Easter. (Britannica)
“The word ‘Easter’ comes from Old English, meaning simply the ‘East.’ The sun which rises in the East, bringing light, warmth, and hope, is a symbol for the Christian of the rising Christ, who is the true Light of the world.”
“The Paschal Candle used during the Easter Vigil is a central symbol of this divine light, which is Christ. It is kept near the ambo throughout Easter Time and lit for all liturgical celebrations.”
“The Easter Vigil is the ‘Mother of All Vigils’ and Easter Sunday is the greatest of all Sundays.”
“The season of Easter is the most important of all liturgical times, which Catholics celebrate as the Lord’s resurrection from the dead, culminating in his Ascension to the Father and sending of the Holy Spirit upon the Church.”
“The octave of Easter comprises the eight days which stretch from the first to the second Sunday. It is a way of prolonging the joy of the initial day.”
“There are 50 days of Easter from the first Sunday to Pentecost. It is characterized, above all, by the joy of glorified life and the victory over death expressed most fully in the great resounding cry of the Christian: Alleluia! All faith flows from faith in the resurrection: ‘If Christ has not been raised, then empty is our preaching; empty, too, is your faith.’ (1 Cor 15:14)”
“What you sow is not brought to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel of wheat, perhaps, or of some other kind;…”
“So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown corruptible; it is raised incorruptible. It is sown dishonorable; it is raised glorious. It is sown weak; it is raised powerful. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual one.”
“So, too, it is written, ‘The first man, Adam, became a living being,’ the last Adam a life-giving spirit.”
“But the spiritual was not first; rather the natural and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, earthly; the second man, from heaven.”
“As was the earthly one, so also are the earthly, and as is the heavenly one, so also are the heavenly. Just as we have borne the image of the earthly one, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly one. (1 Cor 15:36-37, 42-49)” (USCCB)
In the Christian calendar, Easter follows Lent, the period of 40 days (not counting Sundays) before Easter, which traditionally is observed by acts of penance and fasting.
Easter is immediately preceded by Holy Week, which includes Maundy Thursday, the commemoration of Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples; Good Friday, the day of his Crucifixion; and Holy Saturday, the transition between Crucifixion and Resurrection.
Liturgically, Easter comes after the Great Vigil, which was originally observed sometime between sunset on Easter Saturday and sunrise on Easter Sunday. Later it would be celebrated in Western churches on Saturday evening, then on Saturday afternoon, and finally on Sunday morning. (Britannica)
Easter, like Christmas, has accumulated a great many traditions, some of which have little to do with the Christian celebration of the Resurrection but derive from folk customs.
The custom of the Easter lamb appropriates both the appellation used for Jesus in Scripture (“behold the lamb of God which takes away the sins of the world,” John 1:29) and the lamb’s role as a sacrificial animal in ancient Israel.
In antiquity Christians placed lamb meat under the altar, had it blessed, and then ate it on Easter. Since the 12th century the Lenten fast has ended on Easter with meals including eggs, ham, cheeses, bread, and sweets that have been blessed for the occasion.
The use of painted and decorated Easter eggs was first recorded in the 13th century. The church prohibited the eating of eggs during Holy Week, but chickens continued to lay eggs during that week, and the notion of specially identifying those as “Holy Week” eggs brought about their decoration.
The egg itself became a symbol of the Resurrection. Just as Jesus rose from the tomb, the egg symbolizes new life emerging from the eggshell. In the Orthodox tradition eggs are painted red to symbolize the blood Jesus shed on the cross.
Easter egg hunts are popular among children in the United States. First lady Lucy Hayes, the wife of Pres. Rutherford B. Hayes, is often credited with sponsoring the first annual Easter egg roll (an event where children and their parents were invited to roll their eggs on the Monday following Easter) on the White House lawn, in 1878.
That year the event was moved to the White House from the grounds of the U.S. Capitol Building, where large numbers of children had gathered beginning in the early 1870s to roll their eggs and play on Easter Monday.
The custom of associating a rabbit or bunny with Easter arose in Protestant areas in Europe in the 17th century but did not become common until the 19th century.
The Easter rabbit is said to lay the eggs as well as decorate and hide them. In the United States the Easter rabbit also leaves children baskets with toys and candies on Easter morning. In a way, this was a manifestation of the Protestant rejection of Catholic Easter customs.
In some European countries, however, other animals – in Switzerland the cuckoo, in Westphalia the fox – brought the Easter eggs. (Britannica)