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Why Is The Festival Called Easter

Easter is one of the most important Christian festivals. Unlike Christmas which falls on the 25th of December every year, the date of celebration of Easter varies from year to year. As of this year, the festival of Easter Sunday will occur on the 1st of April.

Needless to say this was not the date when Easter was celebrated last year and neither will the Easter of 2019 be celebrated on the same date. However considering the fact that the festival of Easter has stood every test of time it will be fair on our part to say that Easter will continue to be celebrated with the same fervor in the decades and centuries to come as well.

Just like other Christian festivals of Christmas and Halloween, the festival of Easter has also gone through a major change in the past couple of centuries. It has evolved in such a way that a number of Christian and non Christian elements have blended together to give the festival its present form.

However despite it all, something that has remained constant over the years is the essence of this festival and the fact that it is celebrated with the same fever even today as was done centuries ago.

Read on to know why this festival is known as Easter, the role of the Jewish Passover and how the mode of celebration of this festival has undergone a change over the years.

• A difference in nomenclature

Easter is a name that is more popular in the English speaking parts of the globe. However it is to be noted that Christianity is something that evolved in Jerusalem and has its influence in many non English speaking parts of the globe as well.

In those places Easter literally translates to 'Passover’ which is a direct reference to the festival of Passover that is celebrated by the Jews. A very good example in this regard would be that of the Greeks calling the festival of Easter as that of 'Pascha’.

• The legend that says it all

It is believed that on one Passover, somewhere around AD 30, a number of disciples of Jesus travelled with the Lord himself to the holy city of Jerusalem in order to celebrate the festival. Since Jesus had a huge following of disciples on his own, the triumphal procession that followed his presence disrupted the celebrations in the city.

The Romans were not happy about the same. It hurt their ego to see someone else having greater popularity then that of their own. Being as brutal as they were, this clash of ego resulted in the execution of Jesus in the same year.

• Connecting the dots

Following his execution, some of his followers who were a part of the procession claimed that they were able to see him alive even after his death. This fell in place with the theory of Easter wherein the Lord resurrected from his grave a couple of days after execution.

Hence if we look at things from a logical perspective, it does seem fair to commemorate these two very important historical events in close proximity of each other.

• From Judaism to Christianity

Thus in the initial days of this religion, Easter was celebrated on the same day as that of the Jewish Passover. The festival of Passover fell on the 14th day of Nisan. Roughly translated to our modern calendar, this will fall somewhere around the month of March or April.

Thus it is interesting to note that even back then the festival of Easter was celebrated in a manner that is pretty much similar to that of modern day celebrations. Another fact that must be brought to light at this point is the fact that by choosing the day of resurrection of Jesus Christ as the same day as the Jewish festival of Passover, the continuity with which the religion of Christianity emerged out of that of Judaism is also highlighted.

• The official declaration

History is a testimony to the fact that Emperor Constantine favored Christianity over that of Judaism. In AD 325 he organized a meeting of Christian leaders from across the globe. This was done with the view to resolve some major disputes of the Council of Nicaea that were hampering his administrative work. It was in this meeting that it was decided that Easter shall be celebrated on a Sunday and not on the 14th day of Nisan.

• Settling for a Sunday

That one decision on the part of the council of Emperor Constantine is what changed the course of history for this major religion.

While the decision did make sense, (considering the fact that some people believed that Jesus’s tomb was found on an auspicious Sunday while others were of the opinion that Jesus resurrected from his grave on a Sunday) it is interesting to note that a decision that was taken in a court some millennial early seems to hold significance even today. True to this date, Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon of the vertical equinox.

• Changing times, constant name

As the centuries passed by, the form of celebration of Easter kept on changing on a dynamic basis. In the initial days when Christianity split to the two major components of Catholics and Protestants (we are talking about the early days of America here), the festival of Easter seemed to gain greater popularity among the Catholics. The Protestants felt that the festival was tainted by too much of merrymaking and did nit deem it fit for celebrations.

• Surviving through the years

As the pages of history turned itself and society progressed, a number of changes were noted in the celebration of this festival. Children started taking the central stage and Easter bunnies and Easter Eggs became a way of life. However despite it all, it will be fair on our part to say that this is one festival that has stood every test of time.

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Story first published: Saturday, March 31, 2018, 10:05 [IST]