Learn About the Many Meanings of 'Pascua'

Easter is Valladolid, Spain
Easter Sunday is celebrated in Valladolid, Spain. Photo provided by Iglesia en Valladolid and used under terms of Creative Commons license.

The Spanish word for Easter, Pascua, which is usually capitalized, did not always refer to the Christian holy day commemorating the resurrection of Christ. The word predates Christianity and originally refers to a holy day of the ancient Hebrews. 

In addition to holidays, the word Pascua can also be used in common Spanish idiomatic expressions, like the English expression, "once in a blue moon," translated into Spanish as, de Pascuas a Ramos.


History of the Word Pascua

The word Pascua is derived from the Hebrew word pesah, and the English cognate or related word, "paschal," both refer to the Jewish Passover, a commemoration of the Israelites' liberation or Exodus from slavery in ancient Egypt more than 3,300 years ago.

Over the centuries, Pascua came to refer to various Christian festival days in general, such as Easter, Christmas, Epiphany, which was the appearance of the Magi traditionally celebrated January 6, and the Pentecost, commemorating the dramatic appearance of the Holy Spirit to the early Christians, a day observed seven Sundays after Easter. Whitsun, Whitsunday or Whitsuntide, is the name used in Britain, Ireland and among Anglicans throughout the world, for the Christian festival of Pentecost.

Although the English term Easter most likely comes from Ēastre, the name given to a goddess celebrated in the spring equinox, in many other languages the term used to designate Easter, the Christian holiday, shares the derivation of the Jewish name for Passover.

The origin of this coincidence is that both celebrations occur in the same period and both celebrate a rite of passage, the Jews to the Promised Land and the change from winter to spring.

Use of the Word Pascua Now

Pascua can stand alone to mean any of the Christian holy days or Passover when the context makes its meaning clear.

Often, however, the term Pascua judía is used to refer to Passover and Pascua de Resurrección refers to Easter.

In plural form, Pascuas often refers to the time from Christmas to Epiphany. The phrase " en Pascua" is often used to refer to Easter time or Holy Week, known in Spanish as the Santa Semana, the eight days that begins with Palm Sunday and ends on Easter.

Pascua for Holidays

In some ways, Pascua is like the English word "holiday," derived from "holy day," in that the day it refers to varies with context.

HolidaySpanish Sentence or PhraseEnglish Translation
EasterMi esposa y yo pasamos Pascua en la casa de mis padres.My wife and I spent Easter at my parent's house.
EasterPascua de Resurrección or Pascua floridaEaster
PentecostPascua de PentecostésPentecost, Whitsun or Whitsuntide
ChristmasPascua(s) de Navidad Christmastime
Christmas¡Te deseamos felices Pascuas!We wish you a Merry Christmas!
PassoverMi abuelita prepara la mejor sopa de bolas de matzo para el seder de Pascua.My grandmother makes the best matzo ball soup for Passover seder.
PassoverPascua de los hebreos or Pascua de los judíosPassover

Spanish Expressions Using Pascua

The word Pascua can also be used in a few Spanish idioms or turns of phrase, which have no deducible meaning unless you know the phrase.


Spanish ExpressionEnglish Translation
de Pascuas a Ramosonce in a blue moon
estar como unas Pascuasto be as happy as a lark
hacer la Pascuato bother, to annoy, to pester
¡que se hagan la Pascua! [in Spain]they can lump it
santas Pascuasand that's that or that's the lot of it
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Erichsen, Gerald. "Learn About the Many Meanings of 'Pascua'." ThoughtCo, Aug. 22, 2017, thoughtco.com/the-many-meanings-of-pascua-3079203. Erichsen, Gerald. (2017, August 22). Learn About the Many Meanings of 'Pascua'. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/the-many-meanings-of-pascua-3079203 Erichsen, Gerald. "Learn About the Many Meanings of 'Pascua'." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/the-many-meanings-of-pascua-3079203 (accessed January 19, 2018).