Why is Easter always on a different day?
This year Easter is Sunday, April 4. But have you noticed that Easter seems to be a different date each year (unlike Christmas which is always December 25)? The manner in which the date for Easter is decided goes clear back to the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, when it was determined that Easter would be held on the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox (the first day of spring, March 21). If you would like to learn more about the Gregorian calendar versus the Julian calendar and other dates surrounding Easter such as Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Ascension Day, check out this article from timeanddate.com: How the Easter Date Is Determined?.
How did we begin celebrating Easter?
Now that we’ve determined when Easter will be celebrated this year, let’s learn some history of the holiday.
For Christians, Good Friday is the commemoration of Jesus’s death on the cross in payment for our sins, and Easter is the celebration of His resurrection three days later. But why is the holiday called Easter? There are two different schools of thought. Some historians believe the word Easter derives from Eostre / Eostrae, the name of the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring. Others though, say Easter comes from in albis, the Latin phrase for “dawn,” the time of day when the women went to the tomb and found it empty.
Whichever theory you choose, Easter is also closely associated with the Jewish observance of Passover as Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion were believed to have occurred during that time. In fact, the Last Supper is believed to be, in essence, a Passover feast.
Easter is always on a Sunday, the “Lord’s Day,” because Jesus arose on a Sunday.
What do our different Easter traditions mean?
Many people think that the Easter Bunny and egg hunts stem from purely secular ideas. Maybe they do, but the important consideration is what those traditions mean to your own family. Eggs are a sign of new life, and it was Christian missionaries who began using them to symbolize Christ’s new birth in resurrection. Our family mixes Resurrection Eggs from FamilyLife in with our egg hunt, and the children always look for those first. Then, they get to munch a few pieces of candy while they explain the symbols found in the Resurrection Eggs they each found.
Easter egg hunts are believed to have been originated by Martin Luther when the men hid the eggs for the women and children to find. The joy in finding the eggs should remind us of the joy that the women felt when they discovered the empty tomb.
If your church has a sunrise service on Easter morning, it’s because “Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.” (John 20:1) The empty tomb was discovered at daybreak!
Many churches decorate the platform with Easter Lilies, a symbol of Christ’s purity and the hope of His resurrection.
How can my children learn more about Easter?
We homeschoolers always like to add learning opportunities into our days (and weekends!) for special celebrations. Of course, there are some terrific videos available. Do you know how many jelly beans are made every Easter? Do you know the most popular flavor? Do you know how long it takes to make a Peep?
But why not bring new meaning to your egg hunt and other traditions by discussing the faith behind many of those traditions and celebrating those this year?
What special treats can we bake for Easter?
A holiday would not be a holiday without some special baking and treats. Time together in the kitchen also provides an opportunity not only for those learning moments but also just plain fun as a family.
On the day before Easter, we’ll make Easter treats to enjoy after our Sunday dinner. Then, my children, no matter their age, enjoy baking resurrection rolls every Easter Sunday morning.
Of course, the choices for Easter- and spring-themed treats are endless.
Easter is a wonderful time to celebrate new beginnings—a new season, new buds and blooms, a new life in Christ. So buy a new outfit, set your alarm clock for the sunrise service, and bake some treats for a wonderful Easter this year!