Why do our Easter celebrations begin on Saturday?

Dear Maggie,

If Jesus rose from the dead on Easter Sunday then why do we begin our Easter celebrations on Saturday night?

Holy Confused

Dear Holy,

My, what a wonderful question!  For many a year I was confused on this meself.  I thought for a while that it was simply a matter of the impatience of Christians, so ready to be done with their Lenten fasts that they decided to get a jump on Easter.  But with time I learned another truth and realized that it has a deeper tradition than impatience. 

The primary reason we begin Easter Sunday on Saturday night is that it really isn’t Saturday.  It is Sunday.  Let me explain: For many of our Christian religious observances we follow the Jewish understanding of when a day begins and ends.  In the Jewish understanding a day begins at sundown and ends at the following sundown.  So Jesus went to the cross on Friday and accomplished his work.  On Saturday he entered into God’s rest in the Sabbath and then rose from the dead at the beginning of Sunday (our Saturday night).  Our Easter Vigil Service is then always meant to be celebrated after sundown on Saturday. 

From the stories of Jesus’ resurrection it is also clear that by early morning Jesus had left the tomb.  Therefore it was obviously at some point during the night that he rose.  The Easter Vigil nicely begins in the quiet of death and then moves to the celebration of resurrection life.
I hope that answers yer question Holy!

Peace be with ya,