Easter comes early in 2008. Why? Easter takes place the Sunday after the first full moon following the Spring Equinox. This year Spring begins on March 20 and the first full moon after that date is March 21. Hence, Easter occurs on Sunday, March 23.
Strangely, however, this is one of those odd years when Passover occurs almost a full month after Easter, on April 20. That in itself seems incongruous for Christians who believe that the last supper occured on Passover and Easter three days later.
It's just one of the results of too many calendars - the Gregorian calendar on which our official year is based, the Jewish calendar and the church calendar which is based on the date established for Easter by the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D.
For more information on this odd sequence of events in 2008, I recommend the following articles:
- How Is the Date of Easter Calculated? by About's Catholicism Guide, Scott P. Richert.
- All About Passover by About's Judaism Guide, Lisa Katz.
Holy Week in the Archdiocese of PhiladelphiaNow that we have the calendar straightened out, it is important to remember that Easter is the most important feast day in the year for Christians worldwide. It celebrates the day when Jesus Christ rose from the dead. In the Philadelphia / South Jersey region over 30% of the region's population is affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church. Other Christian faiths are also highly represented.
For Roman Catholics who wish to attend mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul at 18th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia, the archdiocese has published a schedule for Holy Week and Easter Masses along with copies of Cardinal Rigali's Good Friday Letter and Easter Sunday Letter.
Pagan Origins of EasterInterestingly many of the non-church related activities that we associate with Easter derive from pagan roots. Numerous pagan societies in Europe celebrated festivals of rebirth following the start of spring. In fact, the Benedictine monk and noted Christian scholar Bede (672-735) maintained in his book De Ratione Temporum that Easter was named after Eostre, the Great Mother Goddess of the Saxon people in Northern Europe.
As Jennifer Emick, About's Guide to Alternative Religions writes in her feature Ostara's Hare, "clever clerics copied Pagan practices and by doing so, made Christianity more palatable to pagan folk reluctant to give up their festivals for somber Christian practices." Jennifer goes on to explain that "In second century Europe, the predominate spring festival was a raucous Saxon fertility celebration in honor of the Saxon Goddess Eastre (Ostara), whose sacred animal was a hare." Hence the origins of the Easter Bunny!
Easter Celebrations and ActivitiesToday, across the country and here in the Philadelphia / South Jersey region, Christians and even those with no religious beliefs celebrate the Easter season. For some, the religious significance of Holy Week far overshadows the more secular or pagan activities that take place. For others, the Easter season is simply a celebration of spring and a time to share with family, friends and, of course, children.
Let's take a closer look at some of the Easter activities taking place in the Philadelphia / South Jersey region in 2008.
Easter Parade on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City
Its origins date back to 1860 making it the oldest Easter Parade in the United States. It's time to celebrate the season and the coming of spring by putting on your finest garments and taking that famous stroll on the boardwalk in Atlantic City.
Prizes are awarded to the best dressed in 10 categories (from infants to senior citizens). It all happens at 2:00 p.m. on Easter Sunday at Kennedy Plaza in front of Boardwalk Hall. In the event of inclement weather, the parade will be held in the lobby of Boardwalk Hall.