This year on April 17, many American Christians will celebrate Easter — the oldest and most important holy day of the Christian calendar.
Easter commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Christians believe Jesus was raised from the dead three days after his crucifixion some 2,000 years ago.
Many Christians observe a period of fasting and confessing their sins in the 40 days leading up to the holiday. This time is known as Lent and comes from an old English word meaning “spring.”
The Friday before Easter Sunday is traditionally a day of fasting and penance because it is the day Christians believe Jesus Christ was crucified. Some congregations have processions, as shown in the photo above, which was taken in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico.
Some churches hold vigils the night before Easter to greet the new day at sunrise and reflect on the meaning of resurrection. Above, the Capitol Church held a sunrise service at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington.
With Lent officially over, families and friends gather in their homes and churches for an Easter meal.
The date falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon between March 21 and April 25. It often coincides with the Jewish celebration of Passover. Western Christian churches and most Orthodox Christian churches follow different calendars and observe the holiday on different dates.