According to the New Testament of the Bible, Jesus was resurrected the third day after his Crucifixion, which proved to believers that he was truly the Son of God. That day became Easter, the third day after Good Friday.
Easter also marks the end of Lent, which begins this week on Ash Wednesday. According to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus fasted in the desert before the beginning of his public ministry where he was tempted by the devil for 40 days and 40 nights.
The Christian Church recognizes Christ’s resistance to temptation by fasting, abstinence, and penitence.
Easter is a moveable feast, which means the date varies from year to year. In the Western Church, including Catholics and Protestants, it is always celebrated on the first Sunday after the full moon after the northern hemisphere's vernal equinox. It will always fall somewhere between March 22 and April 25. This year it's March 31.
Sometimes Eastern Orthodox Easter coincides, but this year it falls on May 5. Eastern Christianity calculates its date for Easter date based on the Julian calendar (as opposed to the Gregorian calendar.) Those dates vary between April 4 and May 8.
Common Easter customs include the Easter Bunny, painting eggs, hiding eggs, egg hunts and Easter parades. The symbolism behind the eggs represents the fertility of spring and a new beginning, as well as the resurrection.
Schools are also usually given an extended weeklong break right around Easter.
For the first time in nearly 700 years, the 265th Pope, Benedict XVI, is resigning as the head of the Roman Catholic Church, citing his age and health reasons.