What is Easter, exactly? Peter Cottontail may get some attention at this time of year, but he is certainly not the reason for the season.
Easter is a Christian holiday that celebrates the central event of the Christian faith: the resurrection of Jesus Christ three days after his death by crucifixion. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the centerpiece of the Christian faith, according to the Apostle Paul, who even says that if Jesus Christ has not been resurrected then the Christian faith is worthless and futile (1 Cor. 15:14-17). Therefore, without Easter there is no Christianity.
Easter is the oldest Christian holiday and the most important day of the church year. All the Christian movable feasts and the entire liturgical year of worship are arranged around Easter. Easter is preceded by the season of Lent, a 40-day period of fasting and repentance culminating in Holy Week, and followed by a 50-day Easter Season that stretches from Easter to Pentecost.
The method for determining the date of Easter is complex and has been a matter of controversy. Put as simply as possible, the Western churches (Catholic and Protestant) celebrate Easter on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox.
In the 20th century, discussions began as to a possible worldwide agreement on a consistent date for the celebration of the central event of Christianity, but no resolution has yet been reached.
Common elements found in most Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant religious Easter celebrations include baptisms, the Eucharist, feasting, and greetings of “Christ is risen!” and “He is risen indeed!”
In Orthodox churches, the vigil service is preceded by a procession outside the church. When the procession leaves the church, there are no lights on. The procession conducts a symbolic fruitless search for Christ’s body, then joyfully announces, “Christ is risen!” When the procession returns to the church, hundreds of candles and lamps are lit to symbolize the splendor of Christ’s resurrection, and the Easter Eucharist is taken.
Protestant observances also include baptism and the Eucharist, or Lord’s Supper, and often a sunrise service to commemorate Mary Magdalene’s arrival at the empty tomb “early, while it was still dark” and special hymns and songs.
Information taken from www.religionfacts.com.
The Easter Story as told in the Gospels
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. (John 3:16-17)
The Last Supper
And his disciples went forth, and came into the city, and found as he said unto them: and they made ready for the passover. And in the evening he cometh with the twelve. (Mark 14:16-17)
And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it. And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many. Verily I say unto you. I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God. (Mark 14:22-25)
Jesus is Crucified
Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers. And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe.
And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand; and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying Hail King of the Jews! And they spit on him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head. And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him and led him away to crucify him. (Matthew 27:27-31)
And as they led him away, they laid hold upon one Simon, a Cyrenian, coming out of the country, and on him they laid the cross, that he might bear it after Jesus. And there followed him a great company of people and women, which also bewailed and lamented him. (Luke 23:26-27).
And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. Then said Jesus, Father forgive them; for they know not what they do. (Luke 23:33-34)
Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout. They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the Scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did. (John 19:23-24)
Jesus Dies and Is Buried
And it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And the sun was darkened, and the vail of the temple was rent in the midst. And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, he said, Father into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost. Now when the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous man. (Luke 23:44-47)
When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus’ disciple: He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered. And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed. (Matthew 27:57-60)
And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses beheld where he was laid. (Mark 15:47)
Jesus is Risen!
And very early in the morning, the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun. And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre? And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great. And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you. (Mark 16:2-7)
So then, after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven and sat on the right hand of God. And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen. (Mark 16:19-20)