The main celebration of Easter, observed during the night of Holy Saturday/Easter Sunday. There seems at first to have been a single celebration of the Passion and Resurrection of Christ, and this was closely associated with Baptism. From the 4th cent., with the separate observance of Good Friday, the emphasis of the Paschal Vigil Service came to centre on the Resurrection. In the W. Church it was put back to the Saturday morning, but in 1951 in the RC Church it was restored to the late evening.
According to the current RC rite, the Paschal Candle, lit from the New Fire blessed outside the church, is carried through a darkened church, and other candles are lit from it. The Exultet is sung. Up to nine Bible readings follow, and then a sermon. After a procession to the font, the baptismal water is blessed. Baptism is administered to any candidates (and Confirmation also if a bishop or priest with a faculty to confirm is present). The congregation then renew their baptismal vows. The service concludes with the remaining parts of the Easter Eucharist. In the C of E, a form of Paschal Vigil Service, modelled on the RC rite, is included in CW, Times and Seasons (2005). In the Byzantine rite the Paschal Vigil properly begins with Vespers on Holy Saturday, which ends with fifteen readings from the OT; the Eucharist is then celebrated. These services are meant to begin late on Saturday afternoon but are usually anticipated in the morning. What is commonly thought of as the Orthodox Easter Vigil consists of Mattins (beginning at midnight) and the Liturgy of Easter Day; it is preceded by the Midnight Office.