For many cultures, Easter ushers in new beginnings and spiritual renewal. For everyone, it’s about springtime fun and festivity.
Easter is that day of the year associated with bunnies, eggs, and egg hunts. It takes place sometime in March or April and is a joyous occasion for the young and the young at heart.
Not many people know the origin and significance of Easter. If you’re among them and would like to learn more about the observance, here are 28 amazing facts about this happy and important event:
#1- Easter is a Christian tradition.
In the Christian world, Easter celebrates the Resurrection of the Savior, Jesus Christ. It concludes Lent: the 40-day spiritual season that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends in Holy Week, when the Passion and Death of Jesus is remembered.
#2- Easter is formally known as “Pascha” in Christendom.
In Latin and Greek, the post-Lent celebration is formally referred to as Pascha. This comes from Paskha, a term in the Aramaic language that Jesus is said to have spoken.
#3- Easter isn’t named after a Christian figure.
The word Easter is of English roots, based on the Anglo-Saxon spring and rebirth goddess Ēostre’s name.
#4- Easter is associated with Passover.
The Christian event is related to the Jewish Passover. Jesus, after all, was a Jew. His Last Supper was, in fact, the Passover meal He shared with the apostles on Maundy Thursday, the eve of His death.
#5- Easter is tied to the vernal equinox.
The Passover is a festival that occurs halfway into Nisan, the Hebrew calendar’s first month of springtime. It occurs after the Northern Hemisphere’s vernal equinox and precedes Easter.
#6- Easter takes place after the Paschal full moon.
In relation to #5 above, early Christian authorities agreed that the observance of Resurrection Day would follow, not happen before or coincide with, the Paschal full moon (or “ecclesiastical full moon”).
#7- Easter always falls on a Sunday.
Jesus died on Good Friday, was mourned on Black Saturday, and resurrected on—You guessed it!—Easter or “Resurrection Sunday.”
#8- The earliest date that Resurrection Sunday can take place is March 22.
Ecclesiastical rules have it that Pascha can’t happen before the 22nd day of March. In history, the only Easter that fell on this date was in 1818. The next time it will fall on this date is in 2285.
#9- The latest date that Resurrection Sunday can take place is April 25.
Again following ecclesiastical rules, Pascha can’t happen after the 25th day of April. In history, the only Easter that fell on this date was in 1943. The next time it will fall on this date is in 2038.
#10- The Easter egg symbolizes birth, rebirth, and jubilation.
The egg has always been associated with fertility, new life, new beginnings, and celebrations. Among Christians, it’s likened to the tomb of Jesus that became empty when He rose from the dead. The egg is also relished to break the no-meat Lenten fast.
#11- Decorating eggs in Ukraine is a pre-Christian tradition.
The Slavic people, particularly those in what’s now Ukraine, have been making batik-style pysanky (eggs of domesticated fowl) for ages. The art was part of the rites of spring in ancient times, when certain deities were honored, but it’s not linked to Pascha.
#12- Many of today’s Paschal eggs are molded chocolate and marzipan.
Oval chocolate and marzipan balls now go side by side with (or have even replaced) the real eggs consumed on Resurrection Day.
#13- Artificial eggs are also used as presents during the Paschal merriment.
Some cultures celebrate this red-letter day by giving their loved ones egg-shaped gifts fashioned from wood, porcelain, or even jewel-encrusted hard minerals and precious metals. The Fabergé pieces are some of the most famous and expensive artificial eggs ever to be crafted.
#14- Egg hunts were born in Germany.
It was in long-ago Germany, particularly within the Lutheran community, that egg hunts on Resurrection Day first happened.
#15- The original Paschal mascot wasn’t a rabbit.
The season’s featured animal first saw the light of day among the Lutherans during the Renaissance…as the “Easter Hare.”
#16- The Easter Hare judged children.
The anthropomorphic hare’s initial task was to see if the children behaved well (or not) at the start of the season—like Santa Claus would with his Naughty or Nice list at Christmas. It then gave well-behaving children colored eggs and fine gifts.
#17- Australia isn’t big on the Easter Bunny.
Having considered the rabbit a pest, Australia has the Easter Bilby to star in the celebrations instead.
#18- China celebrates the occasion, too.
Although officially atheist, China has opened its doors to the Easter Bunny and egg hunts. Some people even give meticulously painted or intricately carved eggs as presents.
#19- The Polish bless their Easter baskets.
On Holy Saturday, the eve of Pascha, the Polish fill and bless Easter baskets with bread and eggs that symbolize Jesus’s coming back to life. This centuries-old tradition is called Święconka.
#20- The Jews have bread hunts instead.
In Judaism where the Sunday following the Passover Seder ritual feast isn’t commemorated as Jesus’s day of resurrection, children are made to find the hidden afikoman, a ceremonial unleavened flatbread. A prize awaits the kid who finds it.
#21- Pretzels have links to the Paschal season.
Made without eggs, pretzels are a Lenten staple for many fasting Christians. And because these are shaped like arms crossed in prayer, pretzels are savored during Resurrection Day.
#22- Jelly beans are America’s Easter candy.
In the United States, what colors and sweetens the springtime festivities are jelly beans. About 16 billion pieces of these egg-shaped candies are consumed here each year.
#23- People in the U.S. spend almost $15 billion to mark Easter.
On average, a household in America shells out at least $130 for treats, including jelly beans and chocolate bunnies.
#24- America’s hungry also get to celebrate the occasion.
Easter is a time for giving, which is why American egg farmers donate tens of millions of their products to needy people across the country.
#25- The white lily is another Easter symbol.
The clean, fragrant, trumpet-shaped white lily (Lilium longiflorum) is the designated flower of the season.
#26- Vatican City hosts the world’s largest Easter religious gathering.
The most attended ritual of Pascha happens in the Vatican—the seat of the Roman Catholic Church. More than 150,000 gather here annually to see the Pope in person, when he delivers his traditional Urbi et Orbi (“To the City and to the World”) message from St. Peter’s Basilica’s main balcony. Millions more across the globe watch the televised broadcast.
#27- Yes, bunny, there’s an “Easter Monday.”
The day after Resurrection Day is known as Easter Monday or, to the Orthodox, “Bright Monday.” For many Christians, this is the second day of Eastertide or the Paschal season that culminates in Pentecost.
#28- Switzerland’s post-Lent merriment lasts until Easter Monday.
In various parts of the Alpine country, the red-letter day isn’t complete without playing the traditional egg-smashing game known as the Eiertütschen. In Zürich, Easter Monday—a public holiday—is made more exciting with the Zwanzgerle, a fun egg-cracking competition similar to the Eiertütschen.