As we approach Easter Sunday, supermarkets are filling their shelves with chocolate Easter eggs and decorations - but why do we celebrate Easter?
For some, Easter is regarded as a significant religious event, and for others, it’s simply an excuse to enjoy a bank holiday - this is everything you need to know about Easter, and its bank holidays, including why the date changes every year.
Why is Easter celebrated?
Easter Sunday, which is also known as Resurrection Sunday, is a Christian holiday that celebrates when Christ rose from the dead. The day is considered one of the most important religious events amongst Christians.
According to the Bible, specifically the Gospel of John in the New Testament, Christ was resurrected three days after the date of his burial, which occurred on Friday afternoon (which we now refer to as Good Friday).
Christians believe that Christ’s body was found by one of his followers, Mary Magdalene, who found his tomb to be empty. Later, she was visited by an angel who explained that Christ had risen from the dead.
When is Easter?
This year, Easter will land on Sunday 4 April, which is earlier than it was last year, when Easter Sunday fell on 12 April.
Good Friday this year will fall on Friday 2 April and Good Monday will be Monday 5 April.
Why does the date change?
The date of Easter Sunday changes each year because, despite the fact that it is a Christian holiday, the date of Easter is actually determined by the Jewish calendar.
The Jewish calendar is based on lunar cycles, and a lunar year has about 354 days, unlike a solar year which has just over 365 days.
Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the Paschal full moon, which is the full moon that occurs after the spring equinox.
The date of Easter can change because the Paschal full moon can fall on various days in different time zones. But because Easter falls on the Sunday after the March 21 spring equinox, it will always take place between March 22 and April 25.
Is Easter Monday a bank holiday?
In England, Northern Ireland and Wales, Easter Monday is a bank holiday.
It’s not considered a bank holiday across all of Scotland, however some councils do claim it as a bank holiday, such as Edinburgh, Falkirk and Dundee.
Each local council in Scotland has the power to make certain days ‘local’ public holidays.
If you live in Scotland, you can see what days your local council has determined a public holiday by visiting the My Gov Scotland website.
What other bank holidays are left this year?
There are a number of bank holidays still to take place throughout the rest of the year in the UK.
If a bank holiday falls on a weekend, a ‘substitute’ weekend becomes a bank holiday instead, usually the following Monday.
In Scotland, these dates are bank holidays this year:
- Good Friday - Friday 2 April
- Early May bank holiday - Monday 3 May
- Spring bank holiday - Monday 31 May
- Summer bank holiday - Monday 2 August
- St Andrew’s Day - Tuesday 30 November
- Christmas Day (substitute day) - Monday 27 December
- Boxing Day (substitute day) - Tuesday 28 December
England and Wales mostly have the same line-up of bank holidays except for a few key changes - the addition of Easter Monday on 5 April and the exemption of St Andrew’s Day on Monday 30 November, which is only observed in Scotland.
Bank holidays in Northern Ireland are, again, generally the same with only a few differences. Like England and Wales, St Andrew’s Day is not a bank holiday but Easter Monday on 5 April is. Northern Ireland also has an additional bank holiday on Monday 12 July for Battle of the Boyne (Orangemen’s Day).
What are some Easter traditions around the world?
Here in the UK, we celebrate Easter in a variety of ways - from Easter egg hunts to making hot cross buns - but across the world there are loads of different ways to celebrate Easter.
In Poland, they have an Easter tradition called Śmigus-dyngus, which is when boys try to drench one another with buckets of water on Easter Monday. According to legend, girls who get soaked with water will marry within the year. This tradition has origins in the baptism of the Polish Prince Mieszko on Easter Monday in 966 AD.
In Florence, Italy, locals celebrate Easter with a 350 year old tradition known as Scoppio del Carro, or “explosion of the cart”. An ornate cart is filled full of fireworks and pulled through the streets of the city by people wearing colourful 15th century costumes before stopping outside the Duomo. The Archbishop of Florence then lights the fuse during Easter mass that leads outside to the cart and sets off the incredible fireworks display.
In Norway, Easter is a popular time for Norwegians to read crime novels that publishers actually come out with special “Easter Thrillers” known as Paaskekrimmen.
In Finland, children dress up like witches and go begging for chocolate eggs in the streets, carrying bunches of willow twigs that have been decorated with features. In some parts of Western Finland, Easter Sunday is also celebrated with bonfires.
In Huax, France, they celebrate with a giant omelet which gets served up in the town’s main square. The omelet uses more than 4,500 eggs and feeds up to 1,000 people.
On the morning of Holy Saturday, the people on the Greek island Corfu celebrate with the tradition of pot throwing - the people throw pots, pans and other items out of their windows, smashing them in the street. Some believe the tradition welcomes in spring.