Jews follow the Hebrew calendar. Their Passover celebration lasts seven days in Israel and eight days everywhere else, starting on the 15th of the Hebrew month of Nisan.
Orthodox Christians follow the Julian calendar and celebrate Easter a week or two after Western Christians, who follow the Gregorian calendar and celebrate Easter on the first Sunday following the full moon after the vernal equinox on March 21.
Yeah, it’s complicated.
Just accept you don’t get it and move on.
Part 1: Passover
Three thousand years ago, Moses talked to God via burning bush. At God’s request, Moses asked the Egyptian Pharaoh to set the enslaved Jews free. The Pharaoh was like “Sorry, but I gotta reach my pyramid quota for the month.”
Okay, he actually declined in disbelief of God’s power. So, Moses turned a staff into a snake. And The Pharaoh said “That’s a cheap party trick. Get out.”
Clearly, he was still unconvinced.
That didn’t sit too well with God, and he unleashed ten plagues on the Egyptians. The last plague was the death of first born sons. Luckily, the Jewish residents painted their doors with lamb’s blood for protection. The plague literally, passed over them.
Afterwards, God parted the Red Sea and 80 year-old Moses lead the Jewish exodus from Egypt. (Then, they wandered in the Sinai Desert for 40 years, but we don’t have to talk about that.) The freedom from slavery is why Jews celebrate Passover.
Part 2: Easter
Two thousand years ago, Jesus visited Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. People loved him and waved palm leaves in the air. Then, Jesus went to the Temple and kicked out some dirty moneylenders. The Pharisees felt threatened by Jesus’ power and sway. That’s not surprising. Jesus was a bad ass cool dude.
But even Jesus gets hungry. So, he ate dinner. You know, the Last Supper? It was then he foresaw a disciple betraying him. I’m sure that made Judas nervous, but it didn’t stop him from said betrayal. The next morning, Jesus was arrested by Roman soldiers.
King Herod and Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, saw no evil in Jesus, but the Pharisees insisted he was trouble. Jesus was crucified a political rebel.
Three days later, some women realized Jesus’ tomb was empty and were like “WTF? It’s a miracle!” Angels told them Jesus Christ had risen. The resurrection of their Lord is why Christians celebrate Easter Sunday.
Part 3: Passover’s Historical Traditions
During the first two nights of Passover, Jews conduct the Seder (Order). It’s a special ceremony during which they retell the Exodus from Egypt by reading from the Haggadah (Narrative). Kids read quickly because they’re hungry and want to skip ahead to dinner.
During that fancy dinner, a Seder plate with symbolic food decorates the table, along with four glasses of wine representing the stages of Exodus. Since leavened bread isn’t eaten during Passover, observers eat Matzah (Cardboard).
Wait. Matzah is actually unleavened bread. Easily confused with cardboard, my apologies.
Part 4: Easter’s Historical Traditions
Easter is actually a season in which Christians celebrate Lent, Mardi Gras, Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday and some other stuff.
Lent symbolizes the 40 days Jesus fasted in the wilderness. Its end date varies between sects, but it always starts on Ash Wednesday (when people are blessed with cross-shaped palm ashes). Good Friday is when Jesus was crucified (Why “good?” It’s the holiest Friday of the year. Or something like that.) And finally, Easter Sunday is the resurrection.
Christians usually celebrate with personal reflection, fasting, and sometimes abstaining from meat or other comforts. For example, some people give up cosmic bowling. No? Just me? Ah, not even me.
Anyway, unlike Passover, we aren’t sure on the holiday title’s origin. “Easter” isn’t mentioned in the Bible. Our best guess is the word “Easter” comes from Eastre, the goddess of dawn, spring and fertility. Guess who worshiped her. Yep, the Pagans.
The ways in which Christian and Pagan traditions intermingle will never cease to amaze me.
Part 5: Modern Traditions
Both holidays have become riddled with laziness, but between the two, Easter has undergone more changes.
For example, Mardi Gras is French for “Fat Tuesday.” Traditionally, Christians ate richly in preparation for fasting. Today, most people associate Mardi Gras with parades, costumes, beads and flashing.
Christians not only changed tradition, but added some as well. Guess from who. Yep, the Pagans.
An ancient symbol of new life, the egg has long been associated with Pagan springtime festivals. Rabbits, who procreate like it’s nobody’s business, are also an ancient symbol of fertility and new life.
In the 1500’s, German children believed a magical rabbit delivered colored eggs to the well-behaved. Two hundred years later, they brought the “Easter Bunny” story to America.
In 1914, Thorton Burgess wrote the book “The Adventures of Peter Cottontail.” Now, the bunny had a name.
Basically, through commercialization, these two symbols became great ways to boost candy sales. And through Americanization, they became good reasons to throw parades, color eggs, hide the eggs, and roll the eggs through a finish line.
The best part of everything I’ve just told you is that there are variations to all of it. People don’t always believe the same details. People don’t always celebrate the same way. There’s exceptions to rules and there’s rules to the exceptions.
I guess that’s what happens when you’ve been playing the game of telephone for 3,000 years. How else could we start with Moses, add Jesus Christ and end up with chocolate rabbits?