Easter, the most important holiday within Christianity, celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ after His crucifixion in Jerusalem. It is considered to be a moveable holiday or feast as it doesn’t fall on a specific date every year. Easter is celebrated by both Christians and Orthodox Christians. Christians celebrate Easter on the Sunday that follows the March 21st vernal equinox and also the full moon, which occurs anytime between March 25th and April 22nd.
The Julian calendar is used by Orthodox Christians to calculate the date, which ends up falling on a day one to two weeks after the holiday in the West. The major difference between the two is that the Papacy is not acknowledged by the Eastern Orthodox, who also believe Mary was welcomed into heaven following her death and not while she was still alive. The Eastern Orthodox Church is found primarily in Eastern Europe - from Russia and Ukraine to Greece and Bulgaria. There is a large diaspora of peoples from these countries, and you will find substantial populations of Orthodox Christians from New York City to Sydney Australia.
Easter is often consider more of a season than a one-day religious holiday; the forty days leading up to it are called Lent, a period of reflection and penance that exemplifies the period Jesus spent in the wild prior to beginning his ministry. Christians maintain this time was spent denying several temptations set forth by the devil. Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras, is a world-renowned event on the day prior to Lent. It is a day spent celebrating and feasting before fasting starts. Holy Week takes place in the last seven days of Lent. It includes several important days; Maundy Thursday recognizes the last supper Jesus shared with his disciples, the day honoring his crucifixion is called Good Friday, and Holy Saturday commemorates the time between his death and consequent resurrection. The final part of the Easter season, called Eastertide, spans 50 days and involves a celebration of the ascension of Jesus into Heaven.
The commercial side of Easter is just as the commercial aspect of Christmas. Chocolate bunnies, jelly beans, and myriad other treats fill colorful Easter baskets usually given on Easter day. Over several centuries, pagan traditions and folk customs have become a major part of the holiday including painted eggs which date back to the Middle Ages when eggs were painted and colored specifically for Easter. Probably the most famous ritual involving the hunt for Easter eggs is the one that takes place annually on the White House lawn in Washington DC. In world history, the egg has represented the universe for the Egyptians, Chinese, Romans, and Persians, the earth’s rebirth for the pagans, and eventually the rebirth of man for Christians around the world.