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Easter, also called Pascha or Resurrection Sunday, is a festival and holiday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, described in the New Testament as having occurred on the third day of his burial after his crucifixion by Romans at Calvary c. 30 AD. It is the culmination of the Passion of Christ, preceded by Lent (or Great Lent), a forty-day period of fasting, prayer and penance.
The week before Easter is called Holy Week, and it contains the days of the Easter Triduum, including Maundy Thursday, commemorating the Maundy and Last Supper, as well as Good Friday, commemorating the crucifixion and death of Jesus. In western Christianity, Eastertide, the Easter Season, begins on Easter Sunday and lasts seven weeks, ending with the coming of the fiftieth day, Pentecost Sunday. In Orthodoxy, the season of Pascha begins on Pascha and ends with the coming of the fortieth day, the Feast of the Ascension.
Easter and the holidays that are related to it are moveable feasts which do not fall on a fixed date in the Gregorian or Julian calendars which follow only the cycle of the sun; rather, its date is determined on a lunisolar calendar similar to the Hebrew calendar. The First Council of Nicaea (325) established two rules, independence of the Jewish calendar and worldwide uniformity, which were the only rules for Easter explicitly laid down by the council. No details for the computation were specified; these were worked out in practice, a process that took centuries and generated a number of controversies. It has come to be the first Sunday after the ecclesiastical full moon that occurs on or soonest after 21 March, but calculations vary in East and West.
Easter is linked to the Jewish Passover by much of its symbolism, as well as by its position in the calendar. In many languages, the words for "Easter" and "Passover" are identical or very similar. Easter customs vary across the Christian world, and include sunrise services, exclaiming the Paschal greeting, clipping the church, and decorating Easter eggs (symbols of the empty tomb). The Easter lily, a symbol of the resurrection, traditionally decorates the chancel area of churches on this day and for the rest of Eastertide. Additional customs that have become associated with Easter and are observed by both Christians and some non-Christians include egg hunting, the Easter Bunny, and Easter parades. There are also various traditional Easter foods that vary regionally.
The holiday of Easter is associated with various food traditions that vary regionally. The preparation of these foods is among the Easter customs practiced. Preparing, colouring, and decorating Easter eggs is one popular tradition.
In Neapolitan cuisine, the main Easter dishes are the casatiello or tortano, a salty pie made with bread dough stuffed with various types of salami and cheese, also used the day after Easter for outdoor lunches. Typical of Easter lunches and dinners is the fellata, a banquet of salami and capocollo and salty ricotta. Typical dishes are also lamb or goat baked with potatoes and peas. Easter cake is the pastiera.
In Russia, red eggs, kulich and paskha are Easter traditions.
In Greece the traditional meal is mageiritsa, a hearty stew of chopped lamb liver and wild greens seasoned with egg lemon sauce. Traditionally, Easter eggs, hard boiled eggs dyed bright red to symbolize the spilt Blood of Christ and the promise of eternal life, are cracked together to celebrate the opening of the Tomb of Christ.
In Ukraine there are several traditional foods including paska (bread) and cheesecake desserts.
Easter day in the UK, like Christmas day, is also associated with special food. After the lean months of winter and the fast weeks of Lent, food at Easter was always a special treat. Boiled eggs are traditionally served at breakfast, and then Easter cards and gifts may be exchanged.
Roast lamb, which is the main dish at Jewish Passover, is the traditional meat for the main meal on Easter Day. It is served with mint sauce and vegetables. The traditional Easter pudding is custard tarts sprinkled with currants and flat Easter biscuits. Simnel cake is baked for tea.
The Simnel cake is a rich fruitcake covered with a thick layer of almond paste (marzipan). A layer of marzipan is also traditionally baked into the middle of the cake. Eleven balls of marzipan are placed around the top to represent the eleven true disciples (excluding Judas). Originally the simnel cake was a gift to mothers on Mothering Sunday in Mid Lent.
Easter Biscuits are sometimes called "Cakes" and are eaten on Easter Sunday. They contain spices, currants and sometimes grated lemon rind.