(NEWSnet/AP) – On Easter morning, many Christians wake before dawn to celebrate their belief in the resurrection of Jesus, the son of God — as the sun rises.

They gather outside on beaches and church lawns, in local cemeteries and national parks, marking the holy day central to Christianity.

For the majority of the world’s Christians, Easter Sunday — and in turn, the sunrise service tradition — will be observed on March 31 this year.

There is biblical symbolism in the Easter worship of the early risers.

In the New Testament’s four Gospels, the resurrection story varies, but all tell of the four women followers of Jesus who discovered Christ’s empty tomb at dawn, said the Rev. Ginny Tobiassen, pastor of Home Moravian Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where one of the most well-known U.S. sunrise services is held.

“When we as Christians stand in a graveyard at dawn, we are saying we believe in the resurrection. We are here among our dead, celebrating the resurrection,” she said.

Another tradition followed by some Christian faith groups is an Easter vigil service, taking place between sunset Saturday and sunrise Sunday. In some instances, Easter vigils and Easter sunrise services are one and the same.

The Episcopal Church calls Easter vigil the “Great Vigil.” In its tradition, the service includes a four-part liturgy that the church describes as recovering "the ancient practice of keeping the Easter feast.”

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