Easter will be observed today by Roman Catholics, Protestants and Christians of other churches outside the Eastern Orthodox tradition, whose parishes will mark the holiday next Sunday. Easter rites commemorate the belief that God raised Jesus from the dead.

TRADITION: The oldest creedal statement of the Resurrection, in the Apostle Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, says that Jesus died, was buried, was raised on the third day and appeared to numerous followers, including Peter (“Cephas”) and James, the brother of Jesus. The Gospel accounts, written later, describe the Resurrection through stories of an empty burial tomb. Disagreements over when to celebrate Resurrection Sunday led to a church council decision in AD 325 making Easter the Sunday after March 21 (the first day of spring). But the eastern churches insist that the council also said that Easter must follow the weeklong Jewish observance of Passover. The English word Easter comes from the Anglo-Saxon Eastre , the Teutonic goddess of dawn and spring.

OBSERVANCES: Churches typically enjoy their largest attendance on Easter. Roman Catholic parishes have vigils and liturgies in anticipation of Easter. Sunrise services are also popular in Southern California--at parklands, cemeteries and other public sites or on the grounds of individual churches.