For those readers who may not know, Easter is when Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, who rose from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion and ascended into heaven where he is seated at the right hand of God. These events are recorded in the New Testament of the Holy Bible.
However. What does that word mean?
Given the literal implications of resurrection, it makes sense that Easter should be celebrated at the beginning of Spring, when everything is new again.
So, it appears that some folks decided that Easter would be celebrated on the first Sunday after (but, never on) the Paschal full moon. Theoretically, the Paschal full moon is the first full moon occurring on or after the spring equinox.
On the two equinoxes every year, Spring and Autumn, the sun shines directly on the equator and the length of day and night is nearly equal – but not quite. (Which is a whole other conversation for another day.)
In 325 AD the Council of Nicaea (the first Christian advisors, of sorts) established that Easter would be held on the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox. From that point forward, the Easter date depended on the ecclesiastical approximation of March 21 (the first day of Spring) for the vernal equinox.
Easter is delayed by one week if the full moon is on Sunday, which decreases the chances of it falling on the same day as the Jewish Passover. Got that?
BUT!!! Easter and Passover are based on two different calendars. Easter is based on the solar calendar, the calendar commonly used today. In Western churches, Easter is dated as the first Sunday after the first full moon of spring which means it will occur somewhere between March 22 and April 25. Eastern Orthodox churches have a different approach based on the lunar calendar.
Passover, on the other hand, is based on the Jewish calendar, a lunar calendar that has twelve 28-day months. (Oh, the moon!) The Book of Leviticus, chapter 23, verses 4-8, puts the emphasis on the first and seventh days of Passover, calling for "gathering of a sacred assembly and abstaining from regular work." I have attended a Jewish Seder and the message appears to me to be similar ... many of the aspects of communion seem to have been taken from the Passover tradition. Renewal. Restoration. Or, as the Baptists say, "Born Again."
When I was a girl, Easter meant a new dress and new patent leather shoes, which I think was my favorite part of all the Easter brouhaha. There was always this atmosphere of newness in my mother's family (she had six sisters as nutty as she was!) and my mother prided herself on being a fashion conscious and modern woman. We always looked good!
As a child, Easter also meant dying eggs beautiful shades of red and blue and green that would be hidden for us to find and chocolates filled our colorful Easter baskets. For kids, Easter was a party with lots of cousins and ham and potato salad and lots of pretty new clothes. I don't know how we comprehended what Easter really was, but, somehow the message got through.
The way I think about my religion is more spiritual these days. Like the New Year, I'm eager for renewal and a new opportunity to get it right, if such a thing is even possible, that is.
I suspect there was a Jesus, and, after reading those New Testament stories so many times, I imagine that he was a radical, preaching love and kindness, which seems to have been unheard of at that time. We have different methods in the twenty-first century for crucifying people, but in Jesus' time, love and kindness were not qualities associated with conquering new worlds, so they treated him really bad. They made an example of him. I guess that Sanhedrin council thought they should just nip it in the bud. Clearly, that didn't work very well!