Easter is perhaps nowadays seen as a mostly Christian festival but in fact its origins lie in three religious faiths - Pagan, Hebrew and Christian.
Pagan tradition suggests that the name Easter is derived from Ostara or Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon Goddess of Spring to whom the month of April was dedicated.
Another Pagan tradition that can coincide with Easter is the vernal equinox or the Festival of Spring in March, which symbolises the rebirth of nature following the cold days of winter.
Even today Pagan symbols live on in the celebration of Easter with the hare, a symbol of fertility, becoming the Easter Bunny and brightly decorated eggs which were originally used to represent the colours of the new spring. Eggs were also an important fertility symbol.
Easter is also connected to the Hebrew "pesach" (Passover) festival that is an important date in the Jewish calendar commemorating the flight and freedom of the Israelites from Egypt and slavery when the angel of death "passed over" their dwellings offering them protection.
Passover is celebrated over eight days and many of the early Christians, who were of Jewish origin, regarded Easter as a new feature of the Passover festival.
According to Christian tradition Easter is a major celebration marking the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He was crucified on what is known to Christians as Good Friday and was resurrected three days later on Easter Sunday. Rolling decorated Easter Eggs is seen to represent the rolling away of the rock from the tomb of Jesus.
Easter marks the end of the period of Lent that begins on Ash Wednesday and is a time of penitence in preparation for the highest festival of the church. Although there are 46 days from Ash Wednesday until Easter Sunday Lent itself only lasts 40 days as Sundays are excluded.
The last week of Lent is celebrated as Holy Week and begins with Palm Sunday that marks the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem as the crowds laid palms at his feet. Holy Thursday marks the Last Supper before the anniversary of the crucifixion on Good Friday.
Easter is a moveable feast as churches in the west celebrate it on the first Sunday after the full moon that occurs on or following the spring equinox on 21st March. That means Easter Sunday can be as early as the third week in March or as late as the fourth week in April.
Eggs have been associated with Easter for many centuries and are the most identifiable symbol of Easter.
In the very early days eggs were decorated with bright colours to represent the coming of spring and the growth of new plants and animals and used in egg rolling or given away as gifts, sometimes between lovers and romantic admirers much in the same way as Valentine gifts.
Different countries have different traditions for their egg decoration with gold and silver favoured by Slavic people, crimson red to represent the blood of Christ in Greece, green eggs for Holy Thursday in parts of Germany and Austria and also in Austria plants are sometimes wrapped around eggs before they are boiled.
It is also quite common in some countries for eggs to have their insides blown out to leave the empty shell, which is then decorated and hung from shrubs and trees during Easter week.
Eggs were also used in Easter sports with the Romans giving out eggs as prizes in their celebratory Easter races and nowadays there are two common games the Easter Egg Hunt and the Easter Egg Roll.
The rules of the Easter Egg Roll are simple - whoever can roll their egg the furthest distance down a hill without it breaking is the winner. Although many participants use the rolling as an excuse to crack the shell and eat the inside!
The Easter Egg Hunt involves lots of eggs being hidden around the house or garden by the Easter Bunny before the children of the house get up for the day. They are then invited to try and find all the eggs often with a chocolate egg as the reward.