Easter explained: An idiot's guide to the holiday

It's the most important date on the Christian calendar - but what is Easter about, why does the date always change, and what do chocolate eggs and bunnies have to do with it?

Newshub asked Lyndsay Freer, spokesperson for the Catholic Diocese of Auckland, to tell us the story of Easter.

What is the story of Easter?

Easter is the feast of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ three days after he was crucified. It is the oldest and most important Christian celebration.

Since the fourth century it has been celebrated on the Sunday following the full moon after the vernal equinox (between March 22 and April 25). The date of Easter each year determines the dates of the other Christian movable feasts such as Pentecost.

What is lent?

Lent is the period of 40 days before Easter, during which Christians, in preparation for the great feast of Easter, give extra attention to personal prayer, fasting and almsgiving. These three are all about relationships -  prayer is our relationship with God, fasting is about our relationship with self, such as self-discipline, and almsgiving is about our relationships with others - caring activities, donations and offering help and support to those less fortunate.

Is Easter as important to Christians as Christmas?

Easter is the greatest and most important of the Christian feasts, although the feast of Christmas often eclipses Easter in the public perception because it celebrates the birth of Jesus, and is particularly associated with gift-giving.

Easter explained: An idiot's guide to the holiday
Photo credit: AAP

What do chocolate bunnies and eggs have to do with Easter?

In the northern hemisphere, the dates of Easter coincide with the coming of spring. Spring is associated with new life - new growth in the garden, the arrival of chicks and bunnies. So 3000 years ago, before the coming of Christianity, people in the northern hemisphere celebrated the harvest festivals associated with spring, and this tradition has continued in the Christian tradition which is also a celebration of new life. This means that the Resurrection of Jesus (his rising from the dead three days after he was crucified on Good Friday) is a sign to us of the new life that has been won for us by Jesus Christ.

Has Easter become too commercialised?

We Christians certainly believe that the commercialisation of Easter has nothing to do with the real meaning of Easter. It is simply another money-making opportunity for retailers.

It could be said that the tradition of eating hot cross buns on Good Friday does have meaning, as it recalls Christ's death on the cross. However, the eggs, bunnies and chickens which herald the coming of spring have nothing to do with the Resurrection, certainly in this part of the world where spring does not arrive until September/October.