AKA: Resurrection Day
Religion Represented: Christianity
Celebrates: The resurrection of Jesus
Date: The first Sunday after the full moon following the vernal equinox. In 2012, Easter falls on April 8. In 2013: March 31 .
On a Scale of 1 to 10: Easter is a 10.
Star of the Show: Jesus
Back Story: During his lifetime, Jesus of Nazareth never called himself the Messiah or Christ, at least not publicly. But by the time he and his disciples made their way to Jerusalem for Passover in the year 33 AD (or thereabouts), many people believed he was both. While in Jerusalem, Jesus caused a ruckus at the temple by overturning the tables of some dishonest merchants there — an event that likely raised the hackles of Roman leaders already threatened by Jesus’ growing religious (and political) popularity. After hosting his Last Supper (famously depicted by Leonardo da Vinci), Jesus was betrayed by one of his disciples, Judas, and condemned to die. He was crucified on the cross beneath a crown of thorns, his last words: “My God, why have you forsaken me?” On the third day after his crucifixion, according to the gospels, Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to heaven. Christians believe Jesus’ death brought forgiveness of sins and reconciliation between God and humanity.
Associated Literary Passages: There are many in the New Testament: Matthew 27:50-53; Matthew 28:1-20; Mark 16:1-19; Luke 24:1-53; John 11:25-26; John 20:1-22:25; Romans 1:4-5; Romans 6:8-11; Philippians 3:10-12; and 1 Peter 1:3, among others.
Easter is a Week-Long Affair: The week preceding Easter is called Holy Week, which begins with Palm Sunday (marking the day Jesus arrived in Jerusalem). It also includes Maundy Thursday (commemmorating the Last Supper with Jesus’ disciples), Good Friday (honoring the decidedly not good day of Jesus’ crucifixion) and Holy Saturday (which focuses on the transition between the crucifixion and resurrection.) And then there’s the happiest day of the year: Easter. In a sense, says my Catholic-raised friend, Tim, every Sunday of the year is meant to be a mini-celebration of Easter.
The Food: Some of what Christians eat on Easter harkens back to the Passover Seder: Hard-boiled eggs and lamb, among them. Ham is also an Easter staple, along with chocolate and sweets.
The Fun: In addition to dressing in their “Sunday best” for Easter services, Christians have taken on other non-religious rituals. Most revolve around eggs — hard-boiling them, painting them and hiding them. The Easter Bunny, although secular, is also central to the celebration, much like Santa Claus is to Christmas.
Conveying Meaning to Kids: Ironically, secular parents often have an easier time explaining Easter (without religion) than many Christian parents do (with it). The Passion is just such a damn mystery. Why did Jesus have to suffer? Why didn’t God intervene? How, exactly, did Jesus’ death effect forgiveness of human sins? And if Jesus rose from the dead, why can’t we? Secular parents are lucky they don’t have to try to make sense of all this. Still, it’s important to let kids know this story is the single most important one in all of Christianity. If your kid knows this one, the rest is icing. Oh, and Jesus Christ Superstar is a great, G-rated conversation starter for kids, like, 9 and up.