The most significant religious festival according to the orthodox Christian Church is the celebration of Easter or Pascha (Passover). According to the history of Easter, it is believed that Jesus was resurrected on the third day following his death by crucifixion between 27 AD and 33 AD. Easter is the celebration of the resurrection of Christ.
Easter is known as the Feast of Resurrection. The celebration starts before midnight with the church in darkness and lamentations. At midnight the priest takes a flame from the vigil light and passes it on to the others and leads them out of the church. They again enter the lighted church singing Christ has risen . Here they break fast with Divine Liturgy and return home. Later on in the day they gather again for prayer.
Exploring the history of Easter it is interesting to know that for some orthodox Christians, the term Easter has pagan connotations relating to the pagan goddess Eostre for whom vernal equinox is named. In reality, Easter is derived from the Latin lunar month Eosturmonath when Pascha is celebrated. Only Speakers of Germanic languages use the term Easter while the followers of Christianity use the cognate forms of Pascha.
Easter is a movable celebration where there is no fixed date. For Orthodox Christians, the date of celebration is in accordance with the Julian calendar and based on the lunar calendar. At the 1st council of Nicea in 325 it was specified that Easter be celebrated on the same Sunday for the whole of Christianity. According to ecclesiastical rules, Easter falls on the 1st Sunday after the 1st ecclesiastical full moon (the day of the ecclesiastical spring equinox).
In most languages other than Germanic, Easter is derived from the word Pesach or Jewish Passover and is related to it symbolically as well as for its position in the calendar. The Last Supper by Jesus and his followers before crucifixion is regarded as Passover Seder. Also Christ s death was at the time of the slaughter of the Passover lambs.
The history of Easter is deep-rooted, however, nowadays the celebration of Easter goes beyond religion to predominantly include feasting and enjoyment. There are sales of cards, chocolate Easter eggs, marshmallow bunnies and other confectionery in huge numbers.
In North America, Easter is a secular event where people decorate Easter eggs and hide them to hunt them on Easter Sunday. Children believe that the Easter bunny delivers eggs and treats in a basket for them in the morning. However, some people attend Mass and partake of the Pascha feast in the afternoon.
In Scandinavian countries the tradition is to solve murder mysteries on Easter. Tradition also includes painting eggs. Children dress as witches collecting willows according to the old orthodox tradition of blessing houses with willow branches and the Scandinavian Easter witch tradition.
In central Europe, males whip females with handmade whips according to tradition on Easter Monday. The whipped female offers a painted egg to the male as a sign of appreciation! In Hungary, Easter Monday is called Ducking Monday and perfume is sprinkled when eggs are exchanged. Easter is celebrated in diverse ways in the Christian world.