Keele University

The story of Easter, and how it's celebrated

A snowman

Easter is a celebration of spring, which is why symbols of new life and good luck, such as eggs, chicks and rabbits are often associated with it.

What does it mean?
For Christians, Easter is the most important festival in the year because it celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Origins of Easter
Easter has its roots as a pagan festival that celebrates the beginning of spring, new life coming in after the cold winter months. Many historians believe the name 'Easter' comes from the Anglo-Saxon goddess of the dawn and spring, who was called Eostre.

When is it?
Easter is celebrated on different dates each year, between 21 March and 25 April. It takes place on the first Sunday after the first full moon in the spring. The Friday before Easter Sunday is called Good Friday. This is when Christians remember the story of Jesus Christ. In the UK, the Friday before and Monday after Easter are a bank holiday, which means many people have a day off work to enjoy time with family and friends.

What is Lent?
In Christianity, the period of 40 days leading up to Easter is called Lent. This is a time when Christians reflect on the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert, without food. Some people give up sweets, chocolate or other things they really like for the period of Lent.

What is Palm Sunday?
Palm Sunday is when Christians remember how Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey. People placed palm and olive tree branches on the road to make it easier for the donkey to walk on rocky ground.

What is Maundy Thursday?
In Christianity, Maundy Thursday is when Jesus had his last meal with friends, called 'last supper'.

How is Easter celebrated?
In the UK many people give each other chocolate Easter eggs which are usually hollow and filled with sweets. Giving people eggs is an old tradition that dates back to a time before Christianity. People also eat hot-cross buns, which are small and bread-like. They contain raisins or currants and the top is decorated with a cross. How other countries celebrate Easter... 

  • In Finland, young children dress up as witches and knock on their neighbours' doors to drive away evil spirits. The children often get chocolate eggs from the homeowners In Peru, a statue of Jesus on a donkey is carried through the streets of towns and villages before it is taken to the church 
  • In Spain, there is a special 'Dance of Death' Easter festival where people dance dressed up as spooky skeletons 
  • In Ethiopia, the main Easter meal is a sour dough pancake called 'injera' and is eaten with a mutton or lamb stew called 'beg wot'.