WASHINGTON — Catholics recognize Easter — when Christ rises from the dead after sacrificing his life for all of humanity — as the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the spring equinox. But, as it turns out, they can continue saying “Happy Easter” into June.

Easter lasts for a total of 50 days, from Easter Sunday until the feast of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit comes upon the apostles, Mary, and the first followers of Christ.

This year, 2022, Easter runs from April 17 until June 5.

Easter explained

Catholics observe Easter in different stages. Easter Sunday is the greatest Sunday of the year, and it marks the start of the “Easter Octave,” or the eight days that stretch from the first to the second Sunday of Easter (also known as Divine Mercy Sunday). The Church celebrates each of these eight days as Solemnities of the Lord — a direct extension of Easter Sunday.

The entire Easter season lasts 50 days, and includes the Solemnity of the Ascension of Christ, which falls on the 40th day of Easter, which this year is May 26. It ends with Pentecost, which is derived from the Greek word "pentecoste," meaning “50th.”

“The fifty days from the Sunday of the Resurrection to Pentecost Sunday are celebrated in joy and exultation as one feast day, indeed as one ‘great Sunday,’” according to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. “These are the days above all others in which the Alleluia is sung.”

The USCCB calls Easter “the most important of all liturgical times.”

“It celebrates Jesus's victory of sin and death and salvation for mankind,” the U.S. bishops say. “It is God's greatest act of love to redeem mankind.”

In the traditional Roman rite

In the traditional form of the Roman rite, Easter is known properly as Paschaltide, which includes three parts: the season of Easter, Ascensiontide, and the Octave of Pentecost. It thus lasts one week longer than the Easter season in the calendar of the Missal of St. Paul VI.

The season of Easter begins with the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday, and runs through the afternoon of the Vigil of the Ascension.

Ascensiontide begins the evening before the Ascension, with First Vespers of the feast, and ends the afternoon of the Vigil of Pentecost - marking the first novena.

The Octave of Pentecost is an extension of the feast of Pentecost, beginning with the Vigil Mass of Pentecost and ending the afternoon of the following Saturday, which this year falls June 11.