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What is Easter?

From crucifixion to resurrection

By Kimoy Leon Sing

The long and much-anticipated Easter weekend is almost here and, for many Trinidadians and Tobagonians, these extra days might be spent at the beach with friends and/or relatives they have not seen in a long time. However, for the Christian and Catholic community, this is a very significant time as they celebrate one of the oldest Christian holidays.

"Easter is the core celebration of the Christian faith and celebrates the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ," said editor of the Catholic News, June Johnston.

"Starting from Holy Thursday, we have an evening Mass called the Lord's Supper. On that day, we recall the night before Jesus died, where he shared his last meal with his disciples. Every Mass we receive Jesus Christ through the Eucharist. The Eucharist is a re-enactment of the Last Supper. At the meal Jesus ate bread and wine and instructed his disciples to do the same in memory of him," Johnston said.

"On Good Friday we remember the day Jesus died. A church service is held recalling the passion and death of Jesus Christ. Another tradition is the re-enactment of the Stations of the Cross. We believe that Jesus Christ, who was truly man and truly God, died and rose again on the third day. God made man and freed us from sin. We remember his passion, his suffering, his death and rising to new life on the third day," she said.

According to Johnston, from Good Friday to the evening of Gloria Saturday, commonly referred to as Glorious Saturday, is supposed to be a quiet time.

This period of silence is where believers reflect and think about the passion and death of Jesus Christ. In the evening of Gloria Saturday, the Easter vigil begins.

During the Easter Vigil Mass, the entire church is in darkness and a bonfire is created outside. Then there is the blessing and lighting of the new Pascal (Easter) candle.

"There are readings from the Old and New Testaments. Those who are becoming members of the Catholic Church they would have prepared before and on that night they would be baptised," Johnston said.

"Easter is a joyous occassion and on Easter Sunday we celebrate the resurrection, not just on Easter Sunday, but every Sunday in the year. Colours of white and gold are often worn and these colours can also be seen decorating the church. It represents new life; new start; a new beginning," she said.

According to history.com, Easter is referred to as a moveable feast because it doesn't fall on a set date every year, as most holidays do. Instead, Christian churches in the West celebrate Easter on the first Sunday following the full moon after the vernal equinox on March 21. Therefore, Easter is observed anywhere between March 22 and April 25 every year. Orthodox Christians use the Julian calendar to calculate when Easter will occur and typically celebrate the holiday a week or two after the Western churches, which follow the Gregorian calendar.

The exact origins of this religious feast day's name are unknown. Some sources claim the word Easter is derived from Eostre, a Teutonic goddess of spring and fertility. Other accounts trace Easter to the Latin term hebdomada alba, or white week, an ancient reference to Easter week and the white clothing donned by people who were baptised during that time.

Through a translation error, the term later appeared as esostarum in Old High German, which eventually became Easter in English.

In Spanish, Easter is known as Pascua; in French, Paques. These words are derived from the Greek and Latin Pascha or Pasch, for Passover. Jesus's crucifixion and resurrection occurred after he went to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover (or Pesach in Hebrew), the Jewish festival commemorating the ancient Israelites's exodus from slavery in Egypt. Pascha eventually came to mean Easter.

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