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Easter, also known as Passover and Pascha, the Feast of the Resurrection, "the Sunday of the Resurrection", or "Resurrection Day", is the most important religious feast of the Christian liturgical year, observed between late March and late April (early April to early May in Eastern Christianity). It celebrates the resurrection of Jesus, which occurred after his death by crucifixion in AD 27-33 (see Good Friday)
. In the Catholic Church Easter is actually an eight-day feast called the Octave of Easter.
Easter also refers to the season of the church year, lasting for fifty days, from Easter Sunday through Pentecost.
Nature and development
In most languages of Christian societies, other than English, German and some Slavic languages, the holiday's name is derived from Pesach, the Hebrew name of Passover, a Jewish holiday to which the Christian Easter is intimately linked. Easter depends on Passover not only for much of its symbolic meaning but also for its position in the calendar; the Last Supper shared by Jesus and his disciples before his crucifixion is generally thought of as a Passover seder, based on the chronology in the Synoptic Gospels. The Gospel of John has a different chronology which has Christ's death at the time of the slaughter of the Passover lambs, which may have been for theological reasons but which is regarded by some scholars as more historically likely given the surrounding events. This would put the Last Supper slightly before Passover, on 14 Nisan of the Bible's Hebrew calendar (Leviticus 23:5). According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, "In fact, the Jewish feast was taken over into the Christian Easter celebration."
The English and German names, "Easter" and "Ostern", are not etymologically derived from Pesach and are instead related to ancient names for the month of April, Eostremonat and Ostaramanoth respectively. According to the 8th century Christian monk and historian Bede, this month was dedicated to the pagan fertility goddess Eostre. The Easter Bunny is often identified as a remnant of this fertility festival, although there is no evidence of any link.