While for many Easter is a day of chocolate for breakfast and egg hunts in the back garden, the meaning of Easter is founded in Christianity.
The Easter story explains the ascension of Jesus into heaven, when Jesus was reunited with his father and creator.
Without the resurrection of Christ, as outlined in the New Testament, many of the stories upheld by the apostles and written about in the bible could not have happened.
Easter Sunday succeeds Good Friday, the day when Jesus was crucified by roman cavalry under the orders of emperor Pontius Pilate.
Here is the Easter story, and how to explain it in simpler terms to children.
The Easter Story
Easter Sunday is also known in Christian churches as Resurrection Sunday, the day Jesus Christ rose from the dead.
This day is considered the most significant in the church’s calendar, as it is believed that Christ rose three days after his crucifiction in 30AD, and ascended into heaven to be with God.
This day therefore represents the belief that Jesus overcame death, that there is life after death and that Jesus, as God, is external to human life and of a higher power and all-loving.
This is outlined in the bible in two important books, Luke and Corinthians 1.
The story goes that Jesus’ spirit rose from the tomb where he had been buried, and the tomb was found empty by one of his followers, Mary Magdalene.
She rushed back to tell his apostles that he was missing, but was confronted by an angel who asked her: “Why do you look for the living among the dead?
“He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again’.” (Luke 24:5–7).
Mary then remained at the tomb, where Jesus appeared to her and told her he had risen and to tell his disciples that he would ascend to heaven.
The importance of the belief in Christ was then reiterated by Saint Peter in Corinthians 1, where he questions those who question Jesus’ resurrection.
Saint Peter, now considered the first pope, said: “But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?
“If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” 1 Corinthians 15:12–14
According to this theory, ifJesus had not ascended to heaven to be with God, then much of the beliefs of the Christian church would also be unfounded.
Therefore, Easter is the most important and celebrated holiday in the Christian faith and ithas been celebrated across the world by Christians for millennia.
How and why do we celebrate Easter?
Easter Sunday is the culmination of the Lent period in the Catholic church - 40 days of fasting, prayer and charity.
Followers of Christianity are welcomed to church services on Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday.
At these services, the Easter story is told and Christians can choose to receive the holy eucharist, as well as rejoicing with hymns and the lighting of candles.
The UK is predominantly a Christian country, so even non-practising Christians and those who have no religious affiliation will celebrate by gathering with family, eating celebratory meals and gifting Easter eggs.
Good Friday and Easter Monday are bank holidays in most of the UK, with public servants ordered by the government to take a day of rest, as well as many other businesses reducing or refraining from trading on these days.
Schoolchildren may also have an Easter bonnet parade, spring fayre or party around this time, before finishing up for the mid-term holidays
Why do we eat Easter eggs?
If you are not a Christian you may not be aware of the origins of Easter, but well versed in the eating of Easter chocolate.
While chocolate isn’t usually associated with religion, the egg shaped shells are related to the holy holiday.
As Jesus began his new life on Easter Sunday, so do eggs represent this new beginning.
Originally, eating eggs was forbidden in the week leading up to Easter and so they were collected and given to children as gifts on Resurrection Sunday.
While eggs are seen as a sign of fertility in old pagan symbolism, eggs are also supposed to represent the stone which covered Jesus’ tomb.
The rolling of eggs down hills, most famously celebrated at the annual White House Easter Egg Roll, symbolises the stone being rolled away from the tomb to set Jesus free.
The Easter Story for children
Here is a simpler, more engaging version of the story, for primary aged children:
During his life, Jesus taught many people about God - who he claimed was his father and a higher power than any of mankind.
Jesus travelled, telling the stories of God and his power to grant miracles and create life on Earth - he attracted many followers and people began to believe what he said.
However, the rulers of the land where he preached were not happy about what he had to say and saw him as a threat to their leadership so wanted him to die.
Jesus existed in the time of Roman Empire, and the leader at the time was Pontius Pilate.
He ordered his followers to kill Jesus, and so they killed him on a cross in front of his followers to scare them into stopping their support for him.
While he was being crucified, Jesus paid for those who killed him and forgave them.
Once he had died, he was buried by his friends in a tomb - similar to a grave but not in the ground. A large stone was rolled over the tomb to keep his body safe.
On the third day, Mary Magdalene, one of his friends returned to the tomb but found it lying open and Jesus was not inside.
She began to cry when a glowing angel appeared to her and told her Jesus had been reborn as he said he would, and would return to his dad in heaven.
Mary remained at his tomb as she was confused, when Jesus appeared to her and told her of God’s forgiveness of sinners and everlasting love for his people, he then ascended into heaven.