Easter is traditionally the most important feast in the Christian calendar and celebrates the time when Jesus is said to have been crucified before being resurrected three days later. Good Friday, a bank holiday in the UK, marks the day when he was executed on the cross before his body was buried in a cave.
According to the gospel stories, on the third day it was discovered the tomb was empty and Jesus was later seen alive having risen from the dead. The day of his resurrection is now marked with Easter Sunday. This is further celebrated with a public holiday on the following day, known as Easter Monday, in most of the UK apart from Scotland.
The exact dates of Easter are not fixed and can vary by more than a month from year to year. The dates of Easter Sunday are chosen by a complicated combination of factors but generally it is on the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the Spring Equinox and tends to fall around the Jewish festival of Passover as this was the time when Jesus was crucified. In 2014, Easter Sunday is on April 20th with the two public holidays being on April 18th for Good Friday and April 21st for Easter Monday.
Being a religious festival, the origins of Easter goes back centuries to Roman times when Jesus lived. Historical studies of the gospel have led to a belief that Jesus was crucified sometime between AD26 and 36. Religious festivals around this time go back even further, with the date of Easter being linked to the Jewish passover.
The first evidence of a Christian festival being observed to celebrate Easter seems to date back to the mid-second century AD, but the customs and traditions have of course developed significantly as the centuries have gone by.
Some customs, such as the significance of eggs and bunnies, actually pre-date Christianity and owe their origins to pagan rituals and celebrations of springtime and fertility during the era of the Roman Empire.