Important Easter Season Dates for Christians
Ash Wednesday is the day that begins Lent season. For Western Christianity, it is 46 days before Easter. However lent is forty days—that is because traditionally Christians do not uphold lent on Sunday, and there are 6 Sundays between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. Christians use burnt ashes to put the sign of the cross on the forehead as a reminder of Genesis 3:19, “Remember, O man, that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.” Ash Wednesday could fall on any day between February 4 and March 10.
For Eastern Christianity, lent begins on Clean Monday and, unlike Western lent, continues for 40 consecutive days (including Sundays).
Palm Sunday always is the Sunday before Easter. It is a day to remember Christ’s entry into Jerusalem right before his crucifixion. Jesus entered riding a colt, and the people lay their clothes and palm branches in front of Christ.
12 The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. 13 They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the King of Israel!" 14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written, 15 "Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey's colt." (John 12:12-15, NIV)
El Greco's Christ carrying the cross
Good Friday (also known in other languages as Sad Friday) is Christ’s death on the cross at Golgotha.
45 From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. 46 About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"—which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" … 50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. (Matthew 27:45-50, NIV)
Easter Day is the resurrection of Christ from the dead.
1 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. … 5 The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.” (Mathew 28:1-5, NIV)
Ascension Day is forty days from Easter Day. It is the day that Christ ascended to Heaven.
50 When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. 52 Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. (Luke 24: 50-52, NIV)
Pentecost is fifty days after Easter Day. Ten days after Christ’s ascension, while the disciples and other followers were praying, the Holy Spirit came upon them.
1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. (Acts 2:1-4, NIV)
The Western Easter Sunday could be any Sunday between March 22 and April 25. How can you tell the exact Sunday? The full moon after March 21 (first day of spring) is the first clue. Easter is the first Sunday after the full moon.
Easter Word Origin
Eostre is the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring and the sunrise. The word east also comes from Eostre (direction of the sunrise).
The origin of the Easter bunny is not clear, though there are mentions in Germany of the Easter bunny dating back to the 17th century. The Eastern bunny plays the role of Santa Clause but for the Easter season. The bunny comes the eve before Easter and hides eggs for the kids in the garden and inside the house.
Eggs are a symbol of life as are many other terms associated with Easter: Christ’s resurrection, Eostre (the goddess of new life, sunrise, spring), east (the symbol of a new day).
White House Egg Roll
For a few years before 1878 (first year of an egg roll at the White House), families came to have their children roll eggs on the west lawn of the Capitol building. However, in 1877, Congress passed a legistlation that protected the lawn of the Capitol building from any activity that might cause damage to grass and other greenery, mainly to stop cattle from passing through the lawn. After the law had passed, in 1877, President Hayes and his wife Lucy invited families to continue the same activity at the White House lawn instead of the Capitol building. However, the first White House egg roll did not take place until 1878 because the event in 1877 had to be cancelled due to rain. The event is on Monday, not Easter Sunday.
1929 White House egg roll (Photo © Library of Congress)