Easter, the spring holiday that marks the rebirth of Jesus for adherents of the Christian faith who employ the Gregorian calendar, will be celebrated this year on Sunday, March 31. Orthodox Easter will be celebrated a little more than a month later on Sunday, May 5.
The Easter holiday, which is typically not observed on the same date each year, changes depending on the moon. Each year, it is celebrated on the first Sunday after the full moon following the vernal equinox, which is around March 21. Typically, its Sunday date coincides with the end of Lent, between March 22 and April 25, as the holiday marks the end of the 30-day period of fasting, repentance, moderation and spiritual discipline for many Christians.
This Easter marks a special one for members of the Roman Catholic Church as it the first holiday to be celebrated with the newly elected Pope Francis. As the 265th successor of Peter, Pope Francis will begin the celebration of Easter with Mass on Holy Thursday, as it is called in Christian tradition, and by washing the feet of prisoners in a youth detention center in Rome. According to BBC News, Pope Francis started this pre-Easter practice when he was the archbishop of Buenos Aires in his native Argentina, although a similar tradition dates back to the time of Christ. According to church teachings, the pope shall wash and kiss the feet of 12 people to replicate Jesus Christ’s humility toward the 12 apostles the night before he was crucified as homage to the story in the Bible.
This year, Pope Francis will host his feet-washing ceremony at the Casal del Marmo Detention Center, while celebrating Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica.
"With this celebration at Casal del Marmo, Pope Francis will continue this custom, which is characterised by its humble context," the Vatican said in statement.
Easter is one of the most important holidays for those who practice the Christian faith, as it marks the end of Lent and celebrates Jesus Christ's resurrection. Christians attend church services on Easter Sunday, as it is typically called. According to the Christian Bible, Jesus came back to life three days after his death on the cross. Good Friday marks the crucifixion of Jesus, three days before Easter. According to About.com, the meaning of Easter is found in the following biblical passages: Matthew 27:27-28:8; Mark 15:16-16:19; Luke 23:26-24:35; and John 19:16-20:30.
The name Easter was arguably taken from either Eostre, a Teutonic goddess of spring and fertility, or hebdomada alba, which means white week in Latin, according to History.com.
Aside from religion, Easter is also celebrated commercially, with bunnies, chocolate, marshmallow chicks, colored eggs and baskets for children as standard fare for the celebration.
In the U.S., by tradition, the president joins in the celebration of Easter with an annual Easter Egg Roll held at the White House. This year, Barack Obama and his family will host the 135-year tradition on the Monday after Easter, or Easter Monday as it is called.