The True Origin of Our Christian “Easter”
I have to admit, I am glad my kids now know there is no Easter Bunny! But not for convenience’s sake (now we don’t have to hide the Easter baskets), but because they are old enough now to understand that the
cultural symbols tied to Easter such as coloring and hunting for Easter eggs have nothing to do with why we, as Christians, celebrate the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday.
As a Christian mom, I was always concerned about finding a balance between the cultural traditions of Easter and our faith. If I was going to give my kids an Easter basket, then by gosh they would get a chocolate cross instead of a chocolate bunny! I made “Empty Tomb Rolls” when my children were young to help them visualize the resurrection story.
By combining my Christian beliefs with the culture’s view of Easter, am I supporting a pagan belief
system? What is the origin of our Easter?
The origin of “Easter” as seen in our culture today is believed by many to be based around the pagan festival of Eostre, a northern fertility goddess whose symbol was a rabbit or hare(1). It makes sense that a pagan fertility festival would take place in the spring, when flowers begin to bloom and the grass turns green again. But why do we, as Christians, place the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus at this time?
According to Anthony McRoy in an article from Christianity Today(2), the Christian celebration of Easter was based on the ties to Passover, which generally was celebrated in the spring, around the time of “Eosturmonath/Ostarmanoth,” which means the “month of opening.” The name “Easter” is not
actually from the northern goddess Eostre, but from the Latin phrase in albis ("in white"), which
ancient Christians used in reference to Easter week and later found its way into Old High German as eostarum, or "dawn."
Metaphorically speaking, I love that we celebrate our Lord’s resurrection in the spring, because as
believers, our decision to follow Jesus immediately brings us from death (“winter”) to life (“spring”). Paul says in Romans 6:4 that, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”
So it seems we can safely celebrate our Easter, knowing that it really is not tied to any pagan festival. McRoy's article ends with the heart of the matter “… The Christian commemoration of the Paschal
festival rests not on the title of the celebration but on its content—namely, the remembrance of Christ's death and resurrection. It is Christ's conquest of sin, death, and Satan that gives us the right to wish
everyone ‘Happy Easter!’”
1. Source: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2010/apr/03/easter-pagan-symbolism
2. Source: http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/2009/april/was-easter-borrowed-from-pagan-holiday.html