EDITOR'S NOTE: Just as with any other posting on this website about different holidays of different religious traditions, we share with the knowledge and admittance that people are different, believe differently, and celebrate/observe holidays in different ways. This article is not intended to give a full, in-depth theology, but instead to enlighten about certain prominent aspects of a holiday and the basics as to why it is celebrated. Readers are encouraged to seek additional information and resources; several links are included at the end of this article.
Easter is the festive holy day of the Christian tradition on which the church celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and victory of life over death.
It is part of a season that begins on Ash Wednesday, through the period known as Lent and Good Friday. In some denominations, it is a "movable feast," a celebration not tied to a specific numerical date on the calendar used in civil and business life of much of the world, known as the Gregorian calendar (by contrast, Christmas Day in the Western tradition is always specifically celebrated on December 25).
Although American civil society places a major emphasis on Christmas, in terms of a faith tradition, Easter Sunday is the greatest feast in the Christian calendar.
In some traditions, congregations hold services on the prior night with the lighting of a fire and blessing of a large Paschal - or Easter - candle. Water is blessed, and many are baptized, but for all Christians it is a day of renewal of one's faith.
In the Catholic Church, there is a sprinkling of congregants with newly blessed water as a sign of renewal of the baptismal covenant. Many Protestant communities celebrate Easter at sunrise services; in metro Atlanta, for example, some people of faith gather atop Stone Mountain for services at dawn.
But, as is common to communities of faith across religions - food is a part of the festivities, where special foods and Easter delicacies are served.
Why Different Dates?
Christian traditions are broadly divided into a Western (Roman Catholic and Protestant) branch and Orthodox/Coptic branch (with denominations found towards the eastern part of Europe, in Russia, and the Middle East/parts of North Africa).
Orthodox/Coptic traditions use an older calendar, called the Julian calendar, which is different by about a week or so from the Gregorian calendar. Because of this, holidays like Christmas and Easter are celebrated later than in Western denominations.
In 2022, the year this article was written, this means that Easter is celebrated on Sunday, April 17 in the Western tradition, and Sunday, April 24, in the Orthodox/Coptic traditions.
The Presentation of the Passion, Historic Anti-Semitism, and Moving Beyond to Justice and Peace
During part of the holy week before Easter is Good Friday, where readings of the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth are given.
Known as the Passion, scriptures recanting this have been used some by people in power historically to justify discrimination and hatred against people of the Jewish faith.
In the modern era, denominations take great care to make sure that this is not presented in an anti-Semitic manner -- instead, the death of Jesus serves as a reminder of how many people are often killed when standing for justice and peace, regardless of their faith beliefs.
In fact, in keeping devotion on Good Friday, many Christians see this suffering as a reminder to be concerned about suffering of people in the world today -- from hatred and discrimination, to persecution of political and religious beliefs, not to mention war and starvation.
Easter During Wartime and a Pandemic
Easter 2022 -- as well as Passover in Judaism and Ramadan in Islam, are all occurring during a time of the grief and suffering of those affected by war, famine which existed before the war, and famine that some experts say will worsen because of the war occuring in Ukraine -- a major source of grain for the relief work of the World Food Programme and elsewhere in the world.
Many faith-based organizations are working to relieve this suffering, including local Ukrainian Christian communities and organizations/religious groups in other countries affected by famine, malnutrition and war.
As a global pandemic continues, for many Christians of some denominations, Easter 2022 marks the first time since 2019 that they will gather in person on Easter Sunday. The pandemic in the U.S. erupted just before Easter in 2020.
The Easter Egg and the Symbolism of the Pysanky in 2022
The decoration of Easter eggs is associated with Easter, but also dates back to pre-Christianity. A symbol of fertility in ancient times, in Christianity, they are a symbol of the resurrection of Christ, with some interpreting decorations of triangles as representing the concept of the Holy Trinity.
During Easter, with the war in Ukraine unabating, the country's particular decorating Easter eggs known as pysanky, has additional meaning.
Pysanky aren't just eggs dyed in water with food coloring, as American Christians may typically do -- the decorations of pysanky are intricate, with complex geometric and floral designs. Artists in the United States are organizing fundraisers and selling these eggs to raise money for humanitarian relief in the country.
Different origin stories for pysanky exist: one states that the ritual represents the return of the sun after winter (with the yolk resembling the sun).
And - perhaps most profound during this time of war - one pre-Christian legend holds that a monster personifying evil is restrained with chains made tighter as more pysanky are made - preventing the world's destruction.
The Ukrainian Institute of America has invited the public to contribute decorated pysanky for a display that is being envisioned as reining of another monster - one of war.
Georgia State Resources
Department of Religious Studies
Research Guide to Encyclopedias, Books, Articles, Databases and More for Religious Studies
There are numerous Christian denominations and organizations represented among registered student organizations at Georgia State.
To find an RSO tied to a faith group, visit:
Religious Life at Georgia State
Georgia State faculty, staff and students are also reminded of the university's policy on religious observances and related student absences and accommodations due to religious holidays. View the policy on religious observances. View the policy on employee accommodations.
Brandeis University. (n.d.) Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Easter. Center for Spiritual Life.
The Pluralism Project, Harvard University (17 April 2022). For many, Easter Sunday marks a return to in-person worship. https://pluralism.org/news/many-easter-sunday-marks-return-person-worship
Waxman, O.B. (14 April 2022). The History Behind the Ukrainian Tradition of Decorating Pysanky Easter Eggs. Time. https://time.com/6166140/pysanka-ukraine-easter-egg-history/
— Jeremy Craig, Communications Manager for the Office of the Provost