When it comes to keeping time in the church, we follow a great tradition and begin a "day" at sunset the night before. In this regard, we continue the Jewish practice of keeping time in which one day begins with sunset and then ends with sunset the following day: "God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day" (Genesis 1:5).
As Christmas begins on Christmas Eve at sunset, thus, Easter begins on Easter Eve at sunset; it does not begin with sunrise on Easter morning. When Christians gather for worship on Easter Sunday, they are continuing what began the night before.
Our English term "Easter" developed from an Old English word Eastrun which, itself, is related to the name of a Germanic goddess, Eostre, a fertility deity who was celebrated in the month of April: thus, the secular keeping of Easter with rabbits, spring flowers, spring fashion, and garden photographs.
For most of the Christian world, the term used to describe the keeping of the Three Days and the mother of all Sundays is Pascha or Paschal Sunday, derived from the Greek term for Passover. What Christians celebrate on this "day" and for Fifty Days is Christ's passing over from death to life - and - our passing over with him through the waters of Holy Baptism, anointing with fragrant chrism, being enlightened, and receiving Holy Communion.
Consequently, Easter is not a one-day affair after which everything goes back to "normal," but rather seven weeks of being invited to enter the New Creation, of participating in Christ's mission in this world of promoting love and justice, forgiveness and peace.
Or you could think of it this way: the keeping of Easter for Fifty Days holds the promise of new beginnings, of many second chances, of life emerging where it is unexpected. Does this time, our time, not desperately need such a promise?
Our keeping of this Easter rightly recognizes that much hard labor is needed for life to emerge and be sustained: physicians, nurses, and other medical workers striving, at risk to their own lives, to care for stricken patients; grocery and pharmacy workers providing truly essential service, also at great risk, so that food, drink, and medicine might be available; paramedics, fire fighters, and police officers offering protection, safety, and emergency services; volunteers continuing to provide baskets and boxes of food for the millions of Americans now without work; caregivers in nursing and retirement communities giving much needed attention to many of our most vulnerable sisters and brothers.
Far from bunny rabbits, chocolate Easter eggs, and spring fashion, the keeping of the Fifty Days is rightly marked by Christian support and gratitude for the many who labor to sustain life.
At the same time, we hold our homes as a center of worship and prayer and that on this day, one can set aside a few moments to pray by oneself or with other family members. The most obvious change would be in color, moving from the red of Holy Week to the white and gold of the Easter season. (A rubric from the medieval church, however, said that color should not really matter: whatever is one's best clothing or one's best tablecloth, regardless of color, should be used on the great festivals of Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost.)
Should you have the chance, welcome flowers to your table. In many Christian countries, flowering or green branches adorn sacred images throughout the home, as well as photographs of one's beloved dead who are alive to God. If you can find or purchase a new white candle, do so, and then light this candle, a sign of the light of Christ. Perhaps it is an old tradition not well known anymore, but Saturday before Easter was devoted to cleaning one's home and washing clothes and bed linens - a Spring cleaning - in preparation for Easter.
The paschal fast has ended but in a region and a nation where millions of people are now without work and thus low on food, it behooves the Christian people to do everything they can to support our sisters and brothers through monetary contributions to local food pantries as well as contributions of packaged food to such centers. As Mahatma Gandhi once said: "Live simply so that others might simply live."
As you cause the sun to rise, O God,
Bring the light of the risen Christ to dawn in our lives.
Give us grace to reflect Christ's light:
Let his love show in our deeds,
His peace shine in our words,
And his healing in our touch,
That all may give you praise, now and forever. Amen
Many Blessing to all of you.