WESLEY CHAPEL — Easter, the annual holiday commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, is one of the earliest on record this year. Usually Passover and Easter are within a week or two of each other.
But in 2008, Easter is March 23, while Passover begins April 20. Easter is always celebrated on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the vernal equinox. The earliest possible date is March 22, and the latest is April 25.
Passover, one of the most important Jewish festivals, commemorates the exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt and the passing over of the death angel that killed the firstborn of the Egyptians, who held the Jews captive. The celebration begins after sundown on the 14th day of Nisan, the first month of the Jewish ecclesiastical year.
This year, another Jewish holiday, Purim, falls close to Christianity's happiest holiest day, Easter. Purim, the festival that celebrates the deliverance of the Persian Jews from destruction in the reign of the Persian King Ahasuerus, or Xerxes I, falls on Friday.
Purim is celebrated by feasting and merriment, almsgiving, sending food to neighbors and friends, and reading the book of Esther from the Bible. It is probably the most joyous day of the Jewish year and is celebrated this year on Good Friday, the saddest of days for Christians.
Many churches in Pasco are celebrating Holy Week with worship services and family events, while the Jewish community is offering Purim celebrations.
Grace Community Church, which meets at Wiregrass Ranch High School, 2909 Mansfield Blvd. in Wesley Chapel, will have an Eggstravaganza after the 10:30 a.m. Palm Sunday worship service this weekend.
There will be games, crafts, free food and thousands of candy-filled eggs for ages 2 to 10. A book of encouragement and a CD will be given to each family who attends church.
Congregation Beth Tefillah, which meets at the Jewish Community Center, 9841 Scenic Drive in Port Richey, will celebrate Purim with the reading of the megillah, the story of Esther, at 7 p.m. Thursday. From 10 a.m. to noon March 23 there will be a carnival with costumes and hamantaschen, a traditional cookie served during Purim.
Good News Christian Fellowship, which meets at the New Lakes of Regency Civic Center, 8330 Civic Drive, will celebrate Easter with a showing of the movie The Passion of the Christ at 6:30 p.m. Good Friday. They will have a brunch and Easter egg hunt after the 10:30 a.m. service on Easter.
Congregational B'nai Emmunah, 2274 Keystone Road in Tarpon Springs, will have a Purim carnival and megillah reading from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday.