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All about Easter: Observance of resurrection follows lunar calendar

Children of all ages raced Saturday afternoon to get eggs at the T-Rex Plaza during Freedom's Easter Egg Hunt. The event, which offered thousands of eggs filled with candy and tickets for other prizes, was sponsored by Freedom Baptist Fellowship of Dickinson.

Many Christians celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ during Good Friday and Easter. But why does the date of the colorful holiday change every year?

According to local religious leaders, it is timed according to the cycle of the moon.

"We follow the Jewish calendar, for the most part, because we want our Easter to correspond with their Passover," said Rev. Patrick Moore of St. Mary's Catholic Church in New England. "They follow a lunar calendar and not a solar calendar. Easter is determined by the first full moon after the spring equinox."

Passover is celebrated as the time just before the Hebrew people made their way to freedom from slavery in Egypt, Moore said.

"The night before they were able to escape successfully from the pharaoh was the night that the first born males, animals and humans were killed by an angel, supposedly, of God," he said.

They were to put the blood of a lamb on their door posts so the angel would pass over their homes without harming them, Moore said.

"The first Easter happened at the time of the Jewish Passover and a lot of the rituals and so forth that we observe now in the Christian church take their origins with the Jewish rituals, such special meals," he said. "On Thursday night, of course, we celebrated the last supper when Jesus gathered with his apostles in the upper room in Jerusalem and celebrated the Jewish Passover."

Not all Christian churches celebrate Easter this way, said Dean Adams, a preacher at the Church of Christ in Dickinson.

"We celebrate the resurrection of Christ every first day of the week as we see of the example of churches in the Bible," Adams said.

Ron Hodson, a pastor at the Calvary Chapel in Dickinson, prefers calling it resurrection day instead of Easter.

"Some Christians are offended by the term Easter because there's an understanding within biblical scholarship that the word Easter actually comes from the name of a pagan goddess and they believe that is just a link with other pagan traditions," Hodson said. "There's different Christian denominations that believe that the whole bunny thing is paganistic and I certainly would not go that far."

Moore said the Latin word pasque is another name for the holiday.

"It's not about what you call it," Hodson said. "It's about your heart and where your thoughts and your mind is."

The tradition of hiding eggs also doesn't have much of a tie to the Christian holiday, Hodson added.

"You can say the egg speaks of Jesus's rebirth," he said. "I think that has more to do with spring than Easter."

However, Hodson said he enjoys Easter eggs and likes the tradition.

"I think the main point of the celebration is not to leave our focus on hunting Easter eggs and getting together with family," he said.

"All of that is wonderful stuff and it's stuff that we ought to do, but as long as we're focusing on Good Friday, the death and the suffering of Jesus Christ, and when we celebrate Easter, remember it is the resurrection of Jesus Christ."