Easter Sunday, the Christian celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus, falls on April 8 this year.
Passover begins after sunset on April 6. Passover is the Jewish commemoration of the Israelites’ escape from bondage in Egypt.
The word Passover comes from God’s orders to those ancient Hebrews. He said: “For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite the firstborn . . . both man and beast. . . and the blood [of the lamb you have killed] shall be a token upon the houses where ye are and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. . . “ (Exodus 12:12-13).
This first Passover occurred when the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt and it enabled their escape from that land.
Many of us probably never connect Easter and Passover. But, the fact is, Jesus was a Jew who died during Passover. Like all good Jews, then and now, he took part in a “seder” on the first day of Passover.
Seder is the name of a feast during which the exodus from Egypt is commemorated. It’s from the Hebrew sedher (order; arrangement).
Before the first Passover, while the Israelites remained in Egypt, God commanded that a male lamb “without blemish” be killed on the 14th day of the first month (Nisan), that it be roasted not stewed, and that it be eaten with unleavened bread (matzah) and bitter herbs (perhaps horseradish). God ordered blood from this lamb smeared on the doors of Jewish homes.
At the Last Supper, Jesus would have partaken of that same meal as a Jew, and the Last Supper was a Passover Seder.
Easter and Passover always occur close together, sometimes coinciding exactly. Since Christians don’t follow the Jewish calendar, Easter’s date is set for the Sunday following the first full moon after March 21, so there’s minor variation in the dates of the two festivals.
Echoes of the word Passover abound in English. Let’s look at Pasqual/Paschal.
Paschal (1579) comes directly from the ancient Hebrew pesakh (a passing over). Paschal is used in references to both Passover and Easter and Jews still call this holy time Pesakh.
Christians, considering the Last Supper lamb a sacrificial lamb, apply Paschal Lamb directly to Christ. Thus, the Latin agnus dei, translates to “Lamb of God,” and means, “Jesus the Christ.”
Most Christian churches light a Paschal Candle on Holy Saturday (the day before Easter Sunday), and this candle remains until Ascension Day — the 40th day after Easter — May 17 this year.
One anemone variety has been called Pasque flower since 1578 because it blooms in early spring, often at Easter/Passover.
A variant spelling of Pasch is Pask. We see this spelling in Paska (Easter bread).
Easter is from the Middle English ester, estre, originating in the Old English eastron, originally from the Greek ostern, which refers to the Teutonic goddess of spring or the dawn. “East” is related.
It’s impossible to give serious thought to Easter while ignoring the Passover. Nevertheless, millions of Christians do ignore it and almost never acknowledge that Jesus was a Jew.