Easter is the Christian holiday celebrating the resurrection of the Christian Messiah, Jesus Christ. The most important festival in the Christian calendar, Easter is celebrated on a Sunday between March 22 and April 25, depending how Lunar calendar corresponds to the Gregorian calendar in that particular year. Since the date of Easter changes each year, so too do the other Lenten festivals that fix their dates according to Easter, such as Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday and Good Friday.
The story of Easter is one of persecution and rebirth, making it the central experience of the Christian belief system. On the Friday before Easter, Christians believe that Jesus was executed by crucifixion. His body is believed to have been removed from the cross and buried in a guarded cave, with a large boulder blocking the entrance.
Tradition continues that the following Sunday, Jesus' gravesite was visited by faithful women-Jesus' mother the Virgin Mary may have been among them-who discovered that the cave was empty. Later that day and for several days after, Jesus' followers sighted him and came to believe that Jesus had been risen from the dead by God.
Today, Easter is clearly a Christian holiday, with deep liturgical and traditional significance. However, scholars actually believe that the festival has its roots in a number of pre-Christian faiths, including Pagan and Jewish. For example, historians believe that the word Easter is derived from the Saxon name of the Pagan goddess of spring and fertility, Eastre. The lunar calendar month of April was dedicated to a celebration of Eastre, featuring rituals to mark the vernal equinox and welcome the fertility associated with springtime.
The traditions of Easter also have roots in the Jewish springtime holiday of Passover. The name Easter is reflected in the Hebrew word for Passover, or Pesach. In Europe, the word Pasch is synonymous with the name Easter.