About the event
Easter Sunday is the most important date in the Christian calendar as it celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The days leading up to Easter Sunday are called Holy Week, and commemorate Jesus's betrayal, arrest, trial and crucifixion on Good Friday.
Christians believe that Jesus sacrificed his life on the cross to atone for humanity's sins, and that his victory over death in his resurrection demonstrates God's power and the hope of eternal life for those who believe. The Bible says that Jesus's death and resurrection took place around the time of the Jewish festival of Passover, and because of this the names of 'Easter' and 'Passover' are similar in many languages - especially those with a Latin root such as French or Spanish. In English and German, however, Easter / Ostern seems to come from a more 'pagan' root, from a spring festival celebrating the Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre. This may explain why Easter features 'new life' and 'fertility' symbols such as bunnies and eggs.
The link to Passover also accounts for Easter being a 'moveable feast' with a date that changes according to the lunar calendar (as Passover does). And Eastern Orthodox Christians celebrate it at a different date again, as their church calendar follows the Julian rather than the Gregorian calendar.
Easter also marks the end of Lent, a 40-day period of fasting where many Christians symbolically 'give up' something special (like chocolate!). So in many cultures special Easter foods are eaten, such as hot cross buns in Britain (traditionally eaten on Good Friday, but now available all year), kulich cake in Russia, a dove-shaped cake in Italy, or biscuits flavoured with sesame seeds in Greece.
How to approach it
Whether you are a Christian or not, Jesus' sacrifice on the cross is a moving story of love, devotion and commitment. Go through the Easter story with your class and work with them to draw out the moral lessons it holds. Christians believe that God loved the world and humanity so much that he was prepared to sacrifice himself, to suffer on our behalf. Ask students what this means for them. What kind of love is this and how can we replicate it in our own lives? Who is a good example of someone that has loved in this way and who is not?
You could also explore how Easter is celebrated in different ways around the world. Show your class how different cultural traditions interact and interpret Christianity. If you have Christians in your class that are confident enough, you could ask them to talk about what Easter and the Easter story mean today.
Jesus taught that we should all treat one another as we would like to be treated. This is often known as the Golden Rule. The Easter story tells us that Jesus was persecuted by the Romans because they didn’t like what he taught. How do you think we should apply the Golden Rule in our lives today?