SUNDAY, APRIL 16: Both Eastern and Western Christians rejoice in the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus on Easter, or Pascha—the focal point of the entire Christian calendar year. Hot cross buns, chocolate bunnies and brunch souffles fill tables and baskets of plenty on this joyous day, as families and friends gather. Lilies adorn altar spaces and remind churchgoers both of resurrection (blossoms from dormant spring bulbs) and that Jesus enjoyed a form of lily himself, as is evidenced in the Gospel of Luke. The 50 days following Easter are called Eastertide.
Note: Though termed “Pascha” in the Eastern Christian Church, the themes are similar across East and West.
News 2017: The newly restored tomb of Christ, which has been under restoration for almost one year, is reportedly still at risk—but this time, at risk of “catastrophic” collapse, warn scientists, if foundation renovations are not underway soon. (Read more from National Geographic.) A shrine known as the Edicule, enclosing what is believed to be the tomb of Jesus Christ, sits inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem; however, as celebrations are underway for the completion of the first renovation, recent surveys have uncovered an unstable foundation beneath the sacred monument. Exactly how to proceed with the difficult archaeological work, however, has yet to be determined.
AROUND THE WORLD: FROM BUNNIES TO LAMBS
Easter in America may be characterized as much by the Easter Bunny and pastel-hued candies as it is by Christian joy in Christ’s Resurrection: Egg hunts, treat-filled baskets and festive brunches mark Easter for many American families.
For many Christians, shared meals may involve white-and-gold settings, fresh lilies on the table and, in many homes, a sacred Paschal Candle. A traditional Easter menu also often features lamb—a symbol of Christ at this time of year as the Paschal Lamb—although these days, Easter hams far outpace cuts of lamb, even on the tables of the faithful.
Easter markets—Austria hosts a whole heap of traditional Easter markets and festivals every year, from the market at Innsbruck to the Salzburg Easter Festival, with plenty of concerts, artisan shows and spring-centered celebrations in between.
ACCORDING TO THE GOSPELS:
THE WITNESS OF AN EMPTY TOMB
The New Testament describes the events of the resurrection of Jesus, which Christians believe verify him as the Son of God. There is no recorded “moment of resurrection,” but rather, a discovery by Mary Magdalene (and possibly others) early on Sunday morning that Jesus’ tomb was empty.
In his crucifixion, Jesus died on a Roman cross. That evening, according to Christian tradition, Joseph of Arimathea asked the Roman official Pilate for the body, wrapped it in linen cloth and laid it in a tomb.
Saturday passed, and early on Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene (and, some Gospels attest, other women in attendance) visited the tomb of Jesus. Much to their surprise, the tomb’s stone was moved, and a messenger announced that Jesus had risen from the dead. Gospel accounts vary regarding the messenger’s specific message and the women’s response, but all emphasize that the empty tomb was witnessed. To this day, sunrise services are popular in some regions on Easter Sunday, echoing the traditional stories of the empty tomb.
Did you know? Ukrainian legend has it that after Christ resurrected, He threw Satan into a pit and chained him with 12 iron chains. Throughout the year, Satan chews at the chains, but just as he gets to the final chain, Easter arrives and the people shout, “Christ is risen!” If devotees ever cease this Easter acclamation, the end of time has come.
THE EASTER EGG: A SYMBOL & A TRADITION
The Easter egg shines with spring symbolism, and even ancient civilizations associated the egg with new beginnings. Today, children around the globe search for hidden eggs on or near Easter, and decorating those eggs can be as simple or elaborate as the artist allows.
WHITE HOUSE EGG ROLL 2017 UPDATES: On Monday, April 17, the President and First Lady will host the 139th annual White House Easter Egg Roll. The White House Easter Egg Roll is a tradition that dates to 1878, and today, it has grown from local children rolling eggs on the White House lawn to the largest event held at the White House.