LAHORE - Christians across Pakistan and the world would celebrate Easter on Sunday (today) with religious fervour and solemnity.

Easter marks the end of the season of Lent (the 40 days of the fasting period).

As Christmas is celebrating Jesus’ birth, Easter is celebrating Jesus Christ’s victory over death and mankind’s hope for eternal life.

The celebration of Easter does not vary much from country to country. However, some Anglo Saxon traditions have been adopted by the Christians living in Middle East and Asia where a century ago it was simply the celebration of resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Easter is celebrated on the first full moon of spring. The date of Easter can fall as early as March 22 and as late as April 25. Pope Gregory XIII decreed this in 1582 as part of the Gregorian calendar. So, according to the current ecclesiastical rules, Easter is being celebrated today.

Since Jesus Christ rose from the dead on the third day after he was crucified at sunrise, therefore, the centuries-old tradition of holding sunrise services in churches continues in Pakistan and across globe. The day before Easter (yesterday) was spent by Christians in decorating the churches with flowers. Mostly white lilies (referred to as the majestic Easter lilies) are used for decoration. The white lily is a symbol of purity. Narcissus, tulip and iris are the other flower commonly used for decorating churches. The sunrise services usually begin with a round of the church by choir and congregation led by clergy all singing hymns in praise of God Almighty. In some churches people are served breakfast after the service to promote harmony and brotherhood among the congregation. After that there are two other main services. One is in English and one is in Urdu. This pattern of services is followed in most Protestant churches. For example in the Cathedral Church of the Resurrection on Shahrah Quaid-i-Azam this pattern would be followed today. In Catholic churches after the sunrise service there are services after every hour that continue till afternoon. An example of this pattern is St Patrick Church in Saddar area of Karachi. As Easter marks the end of Lent the day is also marked for thanksgiving. Envelopes are distributed among the congregation in advance to give their thanksgiving on the day of Easter. This tradition is now followed only in some churches.

And now something about the special dishes that are prepared on Easter. Generally in rural areas Easter is celebrated just like Eid with the holding of melas (funfairs) in the compounds of churches after the main church service that ends around 11:30am or noon.

In urban areas Anglo Saxon traditions are still followed. Hot cross buns are the favourite. These buns prepared by the local bakeries carry the sign of cross on them with abundance of raisins inside. The buns are usually the only item besides tea or coffee for the breakfast on Easter day.

Roasted Turkey is also a favourite for Easter lunch but this tradition is followed by Anglo Indian families and foreigners living in Pakistan. Whole Turkey meat is available at leading grocery stores. Some Punjabi Christians prefer roast lamb leg on Easter while the majority goes for the mutton karahi and other local dishes.

Coloured hard-boiled eggs another Anglo Saxon tradition is now fast-fading tradition. However, the painting of eggs for home decoration on Easter is very much there.

Children spent the last two days painting the eggs, which they have now proudly displayed in the main living room.

Huge artificial Easter eggs for decoration (made in China) painted in beautiful colours are also available at Rs400-Rs3, 000.

The Easter is followed by congregation dinners on Easter Monday, which is a holiday in Christian institutions. The dinners with live music and stand-up comedy performances are get-togethers to promote fellowship among the community.

What is the real meaning of Easter? It is a moment to reflect on our lives keeping in mind the events leading to death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and bring positive change in our lives. It is a time to share and help those who are in trouble or are poor. Easter is a time of renewal and hope.