As the arrival of spring brings the promise of new life, Christians celebrate the resurrection of their savior.
"Easter means life, it means hope, it means the celebration of life that is yet to come that is better than we've experienced," said the Rev. Paul Steiner, pastor of Union Bridge Church of the Brethren.
Holy Week and Easter celebrates theChristian belief in life after death. It commemorates Jesus Christ's crucifixion on Good Friday and subsequent resurrection on Sunday morning.
In the Christian faith, Jesus is considered to be the son of God and the savior God promised the Israelites.
"Many people had said they were the Messiah, but they didn't live beyond what was their death," said Steiner. "We believe that (Jesus) came to life three days later, so he's the one special person who died and rose again."
Christians also believe that Jesus died to atone for the sins of mankind.
"Easter is the one special time of the year we recognize the supreme price Jesus Christ paid when he gave his life for us," saidthe Rev. Wayne Gaines, pastor of Abundant Life Church of God in New Windsor.
"We should celebrate Easter every Sunday, but this is that special time when we believe he actually rose from the dead," Gaines said.
Easter Sunday, which falls this year on March 31, is scheduled for the first Sunday after the first full moon after the first day of spring.
Celebrations usually begin on Palm Sunday -- one week before Easter -- which commemorates the day Jesus came into Jerusalem and people placed palms at his feet, hailing him as a king.
Christian history states that four days later, on Maundy Thursday, Jesusshared his last meal -- a Passover Seder -- with his disciples.
Judas, one of his followers, betrayed Jesus that evening to the Jewishleaders who considered him a threat to their power. He was crucifiedthe next day, which is celebrated as Good Friday.
When mourners visited his tomb three days later, they found it empty. An angel told them that Jesus was alive and had risen from the grave.
"At Easter, we celebrate the reality that as God's son, Jesus was raised from the dead to eternal life," said the Rev. Jamie Dale, pastor of Springfield Presbyterian Church in Sykesville. "The good news of the Gospelis that God invites us to share that."
Several pastors said they are somewhat concerned about the commercialization of Easter, which they said detracts from the holiday's spiritual meaning.
"We tend to miss the real meaning if we tend to think of Easter as bunnies, eggs and new clothes," said Steiner. "If new clothes are a symbol of newlife, it's all right as long as it's understood in that framework."
If the symbols are used to explain the meaning of Easter to non-believers, then the bunnies and baskets are somewhat acceptable, said the Rev. Fred Eckhardt, pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Westminster.
"If it's a means to an end and reinforces the fact that something special is going on, then it doesn't really detract from (Easter's spiritual meaning)," he said.
Gaines said he does not let the commercialization bother him.
"As long as the church continues to proclaim the true message of Easter, I don't think there is cause for alarm," he said.
Church attendance is often higher at Easter, as it is for Christmas, pastors said.
"We've been looking at this day as an opportunity for people in the church to invite people to services," said Gaines. "Sometimes people who are not regular attenders get keyed in on a special service and make a recommitment or a first commitment to attend on a regular basis."
Steiner said he is glad to have those who only attend at Easter in the congregation.
"It brings people to remembrance why they are living a Christian form of life, even though it may be frail at certain junctures of life," said Steiner.
Dale agreed, adding that he wished the irregular attendants would come every week.
"But if that's the only time they're going to come, they can't pick a better day," he said.