Holy Thursday commemorates the institution of the Lord's Supper by Jesus prior to his arrest, Good Friday his submission to death by crucifixion, and Easter Sunday celebrates the resurrection of Jesus. Easter is considered to be the oldest and most important festival in the Christian year, as the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus is meant to renew a Christian's commitment to living a life of truth, justice and love.
Many Christians will mark Easter by attending Church services over the weekend, and for some, this includes a midnight mass and candlelight vigil on Saturday. Families often gather together for dinner on Sunday to celebrate the resurrection.
The symbols that are associated with the holiday in North America are taken from ancient roots. In fact, the work "Easter" derives from the Anglo-Saxon spring goddess known as "Eostre." The custom of dyeing eggs, symbols of new life, goes back to the ancient Egyptians, Persians and Romans. These popular symbols, however, are by no means common to all Christian peoples. In addition, many of these customs and symbols have counterparts in non-Christian celebrations of spring.
Passover or Pesach, the Jewish Festival of Unleavened Bread (Matzah) commemorates the departure of the Israelites from Egypt. Passover is celebrated for eight days with special prayers and symbolic foods at home. It is a "festival of Freedom" to remind Jews of how God released their ancestors from slavery and brought them to freedom in a Promised Land. Passover begins at sundown on March 30th.
Passover is celebrated by more Jews than any other holiday on the Jewish calendar - perhaps because it is so essentially and uniquely a family holiday. The Seder (SAY-der) -- the traditional meal held on the first night of this eight day holiday -- is often attended by complete extended families. In Canada, many families also have a Seder on the second night. Also, because charity and community are such important elements of the holiday, it is common for families to invite to their seder people who, for whatever reason, are not able to have one of their own.
To our families celebrating Easter or Passover, we wish you a happy celebration!