From a religious point of view, Easter has got to be the greatest holiday that exists. Yes, I am saying that Easter is in fact greater than Christmas. According to Christianity, Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ--the beginning of his earthly ministry. Easter is a celebration following the death of Jesus Christ and more especially His resurrection. In other words, Easter is the celebration of Jesus Christ conquering death, having been crucified, laying in the tomb for three days and rising from the dead--having his spirit and body reunite never to be separated again. Hence, all mankind, regardless of religion (or lack thereof) receives the free gift of the resurrection following this life--we will all be resurrected, having our spirits reunite with a perfect body.
But has Easter always been the celebration of this miraculous event? No. Easter is actually named after the Norse goddess Eastre, whose pagan festival was celebrated at the spring equinox (see Bible Dictionary). Christianity, when converting the pagans, simply converted pagan holidays into Christian holidays, so instead of celebrating Eastre, the Norse pagans turned Christians celebrated the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Of course there are still elements left over from the pagan celebrations even today. Think about it. . . the Easter Bunny, eggs, spring, etc., it is all pagan symbolism of fertility which is directly associated with spring. Nevertheless, just as the pagan holiday celebrated new life, the reality is that Jesus Christ has offered new life to all.
Of course, the stamping of the Christian Easter makes sense when we consider that the resurrection occurred during the same season (in this case the Jewish festival of the Passover). This is clearly stated in 1 Corinthians 5: 7 "Purge out therefore the old leaven, that Ye may be a new lump, as Ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us." In this verse the apostle Paul states our need to become new beings in Jesus Christ, to make a positive change in our lives to become more Christlike (or in other words, to become more like God). This is only possible through the atonement of Jesus Christ. Paul, in his epistle to the Hebrews, stated: "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels (or according to the Hebrew translation, a little lower than the gods) for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren." (Hebrews 2: 9-11). Not only are we redeemed (saved) from our sins through the atonement (if we repent), but we are redeemed from death as well. Mosiah states, "For behold, as in Adam, or by nature, they fall, even so the blood of Christ atoneth for their sins (Mosiah 3: 16). Furthermore, Alma, speaking to his sons concerning the importance of the atonement for all mankind, testifies: "But there is a law given, and a punishment affixed, and a repentance granted; which repentance, mercy claimeth; otherwise justice claimeth the creature and executeth the law, and the law inflicteth punishment; if not so, the works of justice would be destroyed, and God would cease to be God. But God ceaseth not to be God, and mercy hath claimeth the penitent, and mercy cometh because of the atonement; and the atonement bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead; and the resurrection bringeth back men into the presence of God; and thus they are restored into his presence, to be judged according to their works, according to the law and justice." (Alma 42: 22-23).
What a great message to all mankind! Easter is simply a holiday, but the message that is associated with it--the atonement of Jesus Christ--is the greatest message that mankind may receive! To know that through Jesus Christ, his suffering, death, and resurrection (known as the atonement), we are able to repent, become better people, have our sins forgiven, and live again with a perfect physical body in the presence of God--this is a message in which I rejoice! This is the message behind the holiday that we celebrate. And so it is that I wish you all a happy Easter! Or more appropriately, I thank my Heavenly Father for sending his only begotten Son to perform the atonement on my behalf (and yours). A Happy day indeed! I hope that you all enjoy it.