Easter[nb 1][nb 2] (Latin: Pascha; Greek Πάσχα Paskha, from Hebrew: פֶּסַח Pesaḥ) is a Christian festival and holiday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ on the third day after his crucifixion at Calvary as described in the New Testament. Easter is the culmination of the Passion of Christ, preceded by Lent, a forty-day period of fasting, prayer, and penance. The last week of Lent is called Holy Week, and it contains the days of the Easter Triduum, including Maundy Thursday (also known as Holy Thursday), commemorating the Last Supper and its preceding foot washing, as well as Good Friday, commemorating the crucifixion and death of Jesus. Easter is followed by a fifty-day period called Eastertide, or the Easter Season, ending with Pentecost Sunday.
Easter is a moveable feast, meaning it is not fixed in relation to the civil calendar. The First Council of Nicaea (325) established the date of Easter as the first Sunday after the full moon (the Paschal Full Moon) following the March equinox. Ecclesiastically, the equinox is reckoned to be on 21 March (even though the equinox occurs, astronomically speaking, on 20 March in most years), and the "Full Moon" is not necessarily the astronomically correct date. The date of Easter therefore varies between 22 March and 25 April. Eastern Christianity bases its calculations on the Julian calendar, whose 21 March corresponds, during the 21st century, to 3 April in the Gregorian calendar, in which the celebration of Easter therefore varies between 4 April and 8 May.
Easter is linked to the Jewish Passover by much of its symbolism, as well as by its position in the calendar. In many languages, the words for "Easter" and "Passover" are etymologically related or homonymous. Easter customs vary across the Christian world, but attending sunrise services, exclaiming the Paschal greeting, clipping the church and decorating Easter eggs, a symbol of the empty tomb, are common motifs. Additional customs include egg hunting, the Easter Bunny, and Easter parades, which are observed by both Christians and some non-Christians.
In both Greek and Latin, the 2nd-century Christian celebration was called Pascha, derived, through Aramaic, from the Hebrew term Pesach (פֶּסַח), known in English as Passover, the Jewish festival commemorating the story of the Exodus. Paul writes from Ephesus that "Christ our Pascha has been sacrificed for us," although the Ephesian Christians were not the first to hear that Exodus 12 spoke about the death of Jesus. In most of the non-English speaking world, the feast today is known by the name Pascha and words derived from it.
The modern English term Easter, cognate with modern German Ostern, developed from the Old English word Ēastre or Ēostre.[nb 3] This is generally held to have originally referred to the name of an Anglo-Saxon goddess, Ēostre, a form of the widely attested Indo-European dawn goddess.[nb 4] The evidence for the Anglo-Saxon goddess, however, has not been universally accepted, and some have proposed that Eostre may have meant "the month of opening" or that the name Easter may have arisen from the designation of Easter Week in Latin as in albis.[25
Read more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Easter