What is Easter About? A Guide to Resurrection Sunday and why He Has Risen

A group of painted eggs lay amongst each other.

What is Easter?

Easter, sometimes referred to as Resurrection Sunday, celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who died on the cross and was resurrected three days later. It is a time of reflection, repentance, and joy, and marks the end of Lent. The New Testament tells us that Jesus is the son of God, and that his death and subsequent resurrection from the empty tomb on the third day offers salvation from sin. 

Many of the Christian faith believe that Easter is the most important holiday of the year and serves as a reminder that through Christ, we can have hope for eternal life.

A view through a tunnel or tomb looks out onto 3 crosses in the distance.

He Has Risen

But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.

Matthew 28:5-6, ESV

After his betrayal on the day of the last supper, Christ died on the cross, and He rose again on the third-day. This is what we celebrate on Easter. His resurrection offers us hope for eternal life, and proves that He is the Son of God. It was through His death and resurrection that we can be saved from our sins, because that is what the divine plan to save humanity requires. He went willingly and sacrificed Himself for us and because of His death, we can have life.

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

1 Corinthians 15:17-19, ESV

Easter marks the End of Lent?

Lent: noun, (in the Christian religion) an annual season of fasting and penitence in preparation for Easter, beginning on Ash Wednesday and lasting 40 weekdays to Easter, observed by Roman Catholic, Anglican, and certain other churches.

Lent falls during a period of preparation for Easter season and represents the time Jesus went into the desert to fast and pray for forty days and forty nights. He was tempted by the devil, but He resisted. 

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written,
“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
    but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Mathew 4:1-4, ESV

This time of fasting and prayer served as preparation for His public ministry, showing us that He is in control of His body and His desires. He is the Son of God, and He has the power to overcome temptation. By fasting, He showed us that we can do the same. 

Lent, like Holy Week mentioned below, is observed predominately by Catholics, however, Christians may (and do) participate all around the world. It is a time to prepare for Jesus’ resurrection by repenting of our sins and asking for forgiveness. Many people give up something for Lent, such as chocolate or coffee, as a way of symbolically sacrificing something important to them. Others use Lent as a time to do more good deeds, or to pray more often. Lent culminates in Easter Sunday, which marks the beginning of Christ’s reign over all things.

Holy Week

Holy Week, sometimes referred to as Passion Week, is the week leading up to Easter. It commemorates the last week of Jesus’ life, starting with Palm Sunday and ending with Easter Sunday. During this week, Christians remember and reflect on Jesus’ sacrifice for humanity.

  • Palm Sunday, commemorates Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. 
  • Maundy Thursday remembers the Passover feast known as the Last Supper and Jesus’ institution of the Eucharist (also known as the Holy Communion and the Lord’s Supper). 
  • Good Friday is a day of mourning and reflection on Jesus’ crucifixion.
  • Holy Saturday is a day of waiting and anticipation, as Christians reflect on Jesus’ death and prepare for the resurrection of Jesus. 
  • Easter Sunday is the joyful celebration of Jesus’ Resurrection from the dead on the third day. This event is the foundation of The New Testament and the Christian faith, and we rejoice and give thanks to God for His great love and mercy.
A list describing Holy Week that reads, from top-to-bottom, "He enters Jerusalem - Palm Sunday." Then "The Last Supper - Maundy Thursday." Then "The Crucifixion - Good Friday." Then "He Lies in the Tomb - Holy Saturday." And finally "He has risen - Easter Sunday."

Note that some Eastern Orthodox Christians celebrate Lazarus Saturday, which refers to Jesus’ raising of Lazarus from the dead. Though it is not recognized as part of Holy Week, this holiday is generally celebrated the day before Palm Sunday.

When is Easter?

Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the full moon that occurs on or after the spring equinox, which is the day that marks the beginning of spring. 

Resurrection Sunday was originally celebrated during Passover, which commemorated the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. After the ensuing controversy of celebrating both at the same time, the holiday was later pushed back to be celebrated on the Sunday after Passover, then absorbed into the gregorian calendar. Because of the nature of the calendar and how they are celebrated, both holidays may once again fall on the same dates depending on the year. For example, Easter falls on Sunday, March 31st, 2024 and Passover is from Monday, April 22nd to Tuesday, April 30th, 2024.

What is Passover?

The Passover is a holiday that celebrates the deliverance of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt. According to the Bible, God led Moses and the Israelites out of Egypt by sending plagues against the Pharaoh and his army. The final plague was the death of the firstborn sons. To protect their sons, the Israelites were instructed to sacrifice a lamb and put its blood on their doorposts. The angel of death would then pass over their homes, sparing the lives of their sons.

The Relationship Between Easter and Passover

The Passover is significant to Christians because Jesus Christ is believed to be the lamb whose sacrifice led to the forgiveness of sins. Just as the Israelites were spared from death because of the sacrificial lamb, Christians believe that they are spared from eternal damnation because of Christ Jesus’ sacrifice.

One of the most significant connections between Easter and Passover is the symbolism of sacrifice. The Passover meal, known as a Seder, includes a dish called the charoset, which is made of apples, nuts, wine, and cinnamon. This dish represents the mortar that the Israelites used to build for the Egyptians during their time as slaves. The wine in the charoset is a reminder of the blood of the Paschal Lamb that was shed during the Passover sacrifice. 

As mentioned, the Easter story also includes a sacrificial element, as Jesus is portrayed as a sacrificial Lamb who was crucified on Good Friday. His death and subsequent resurrection provide redemption for humanity.

Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.

1 Corinthians 5:7, ESV

Another similarity between Easter and Passover is the theme of liberation. The Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt, and Jesus was freed from death on the cross. In both cases, freedom is celebrated as a victory. 

For Christians, Easter is a time to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus in The New Testament and the hope of eternal life. For Jews, Passover is a time to remember the liberation of their ancestors from slavery in The Old Testament. Nevertheless, the two holidays share many similarities, and they are often celebrated together.

Is the Jewish Passover the same as the Feast of Unleavened Bread?

No, the Jewish Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread are two separate holidays. The Passover is a celebration of the deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, while the Feast of Unleavened Bread commemorates the Israelites’ journey to the Promised Land.

Easter as a Pagan Holiday

Easter day is often considered a Christian celebration, but its origins actually lie in pagan traditions. Easter was the pagan holiday of the changing season (into spring), including rebirth and new beginnings. The name Easter is derived from the ancient Anglo Saxon goddess Eostre, who was honored by pagan celebrations during the spring equinox. Many of the symbols and Easter traditions also have pagan roots, such as green grass, eggs, rabbits, and candy.

Eostre and The Easter Bunny

Eostre was the pagan goddess of spring, dawn, and fertility; celebrated by the Anglo-Saxons, her feast day was known as Easter, which is why Easter is sometimes referred to as “Pagan Easter.” 

The Easter Bunny is a more modern addition to the holiday, and its origins are unconfirmed. Some believe that it is simply a symbol of new life, since rabbits are known for their high reproductive rate. Mythologically, the Easter Bunny is believed to have come from Eostre turning an injured bird into a rabbit to save its life. This rabbit retains its ability to lay eggs, and in its gratitude, lays beautiful, colored eggs on the day of her celebration.

 Whatever the case may be, the Easter Bunny has become a staple of the holiday, and children all over the world look forward to the Easter egg hunt every year.

How do Christians Celebrate Easter?

Churches typically hold special services on Easter morning, sometimes including sunrise services. Often thought of as a time of renewal, sunrise services can be a beautiful way to start the day, and they often offer a message of hope and new life that can be meaningful for all who attend. A typical service on Easter Sunday morning includes a sermon, hymns, prayers, and readings from the Bible. Many churches also have an Easter egg hunt for children, and some serve a festive Easter meal. 

Some Easter traditions, such as decorating Easter eggs and eating chocolate rabbits, have been adopted by Christians as part of the Easter celebrations.

The Commercialization of Easter

The commercialization of the Easter holiday has increasingly become about exchanging gifts rather than religious observance. Many people see Easter as a time to spend with family and friends, and while there is nothing wrong with this, the holiday has become increasingly focused on consumerism.

Easter eggs, chocolate bunnies, and other such sweets have become synonymous with the holiday, and while they may be enjoyed by many, they are not central to the meaning of Easter. Those who celebrate Easter should take the time to learn about the holiday’s religious roots, and why Christ’s resurrection is significant. By doing so, they can ensure that Easter remains a meaningful and significant holiday.

A close-up look at generic purple cloth.

Why is the Color Purple so Important to Easter?

The Easter celebration is often associated with a beautiful pastel shade of purple, but the historical importance of the color is much more sobering. In the time of Jesus Christ, purple dye was a commodity hard to come across and very expensive. Only those who had money could afford to wear it, thus, given its scarcity, royalty reserved the right to wear purple almost exclusively.

The Bible tells us that when Jesus was crucified, His clothes were divided up by the soldiers who oversaw His execution. Knowing the royal symbolism behind the color purple, the roman soldiers then mockingly dressed Him in a purple cloak exclaiming “Hail, King of the Jews!.” So, not only was Jesus stripped of His clothes and humiliated, but the one garment He did have was placed on Him as a joke. To the Romans, he was a false king being marched to his death.

And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. And they began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!”

Mark 15:17-18, ESV

When is Easter Sunday 2024

Easter Sunday falls on Sunday, March 31st, 2024.

Final Thoughts

Jesus Christ – the One who was mocked and humiliated – is now the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He has been given all authority in heaven and on earth, and one day, He will return to judge the living and the dead. Through Christ’s resurrection, all those that follow him will be blessed and find new life in heaven.

Happy Easter!


For the sake of clarity, Catholicism is the largest denomination of Christianity. While we generally try to speak of the Christian experience in our articles from a non-denominational perspective, Holy Week is celebrated by both Catholics and Christians, just predominately by Catholics. A non-denominational church may not celebrate Holy Week the same way a Catholic church might, but the themes and purpose of Holy Week are core beliefs of the Christian faith and important to recognize.