This weekend, our Christian community will be celebrating the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Here's what you need to know about the holiday

The upcoming long weekend is more than just a public holiday or a time to indulge in chocolate and fun brunches. For Christians around the world, it is a solemn yet joyful celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

However, it isn’t just Easter Day that is celebrated. There are also Palm Sunday, Maunday Thursday and Good Friday as well as Ash Wednesday and Lent, all of which are crucial in the lead up to Easter.

Below, we explore what Easter means along with the significance of the different days. 

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1. When is Easter?

This year, Easter Sunday will fall on April 17. However, Easter typically falls on different dates each year and will always be lined up with Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday, Maunday Thursday and Good Friday. 

These celebrations, which are all related to Easter Sunday, are considered “moveable feasts”, according to History. In Western Christian communities, the Gregorian calendar is always followed which means that Easter will always fall between March 22 and April 25.

In Eastern Orthodox Christianity, the Julian calendar is followed and Orthodox Easter will fall between April 4 and May 8 on a Sunday each year. 

Easter Sunday marks the end of a period of fasting that Christians undertake called Lent. 

2. What is Lent?

Lent is a period of fasting that typically begins on Ash Wednesday (which took place on March 2 this year and is the celebration that sees many Christians being blessed with ash on their foreheads). It is a 40-day long fasting period that prepares Christians for Easter and imitates Jesus Christ’s 40-day fast in the wilderness before he began his public ministry, according to Britannica.

While fasting rules used to be strictly followed with only one meal a day permitted and fish, eggs, and butter forbidden, the rules are significantly less rigid today. Many Christians choose to take a break from various activities, for example watching television or using social media instead of fasting from meals.

This fast ends on Easter Sunday. 

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3. What are the other “moveable feasts”?

The other “moveable feasts” are Palm Sunday, Maunday Thursday and Good Friday, which are all crucial in the lead up to Easter Sunday. 

Palm Sunday occurs one Sunday before Easter and it celebrates Christ’s final arrival in Jerusalem. During Christ’s arrival, his followers used palm branches to honour him as King and Messiah, according to Christianity.com. In honour of this, churches typically give their congregation palm branches. This year, Palm Sunday fell on April 10.

Four days later, on the Thursday following Palm Sunday, Christians will celebrate Maundy Thursday. Maundy Thursday commemorates Jesus Christ’s institution of the Eucharist during the Last Supper (the last meal Jesus had with his disciples before he was sentenced to hang on the cross), according to Britannica. This year, it falls on April 14 and typically, Christians will attend church service.

A day after Maundy Thursday is Good Friday and this is when Christians commemorate the crucifixion of Christ. This is where Jesus willingly suffered and died on the cross for the sins of the world as written in the Holy Bible.

Good Friday may be considered a sombre day for some but many Christians in the modern era choose to look at it in joyful appreciation of the willing sacrifice Christ made to die on the cross. And this is why the day is often referred to as 'good'. Good Friday precedes Easter day, the day that Jesus was resurrected from death. 

4. How is Easter celebrated?

Easter Sunday is usually a joyful occasion and Christians typically start the day with church services. They then have meals with church members, family and friends as communion and fellowship is strongly encouraged in the bible and in churches.

This is also a day that churches tend to use to baptise their new converts as water symbolises entering a new life with Christ.

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