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ALBANY -- Easter is the holiest day on the Christian calendar.

For Christians, Easter signifies the divinity of Jesus, the day when he rose from the dead. For others, Easter also has special as it signifies the end of the cold winter and the reawakening of life with the start of spring.

Many children and their parents will wear their best Easter dresses and suits to church this morning. And a number of services in Southwest Georgia were conducted this morning as the sun rose over the horizon, symbolizing the new age that dawned with Jesus' resurrection.

"The main symbol of Easter is the message of Christ," Sheila Eaddy, the senior pastor administrative assistant to Dr. Daniel Simmons at Mount Zion Baptist Church, said last week. "The scripture tells us that he rose from the dead, and each Easter is a renewing of that message."

Eaddy noted that Mt. Zion, like many churches in the area, has had special programs leading up to the holy day. On Palm Sunday, "all of the youth gave their Easter speeches," she said, and the church's Performing Arts Ministry performed an Easter play on Wednesday.

Eaddy says there are other symbols of Easter that are related to family activities, but "people need not to forget the real meaning of Easter."

"The tomb is empty," she said, "because our Savior lives."

One of the non-Christian symbols that has become as synonymous with Easter as Santa Claus is to Christmas is the Easter egg.

The origin of the Easter egg hunt is fuzzy, but some historians believe it started centuries ago when, according to lore, a king lost his egg on Easter day and had to hunt for it.

Anastasia Harris, senior biology major at Albany State University, Easter is a time where her "family and members of the church have been known to hide eggs in their gardens and yards for children to find."

"This way, the church's youth can have fun while learning the true meaning of Easter."

Leading up to Easter, Harris says, some "kids make nests which they believe the Easter Bunny will fill with brightly colored and decorated eggs. Sometimes children even leave out carrots as a gift to the Easter bunny."

And, of course, the chocolate Easter bunny is a favorite Easter treat. In fact, one study went so far as to determine which part of the chocolate Easter bunny consumers eat first. The results: 72 percent of consumers go for the ears.

BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW

Pysanka, a word that has been taken to mean any type of decorated egg, specifically refers to an egg created by the written-wax batik method of Ukrainian tradition.