Is Easter Pagan?

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Every year, about this time, there is a bit of a controversy about Easter having pagan origins and therefore christians should not celebrate it.

It seems to me that it’s a bit arrogant of people to assume that after 2000 years of christian tradition they alone have the truth about Easter and everyone else has been deceived. It is possible, but you really have to do your research before making such an assumption.

As far as christians are concerned, Easter is the grand celebration of the central historical fact of our faith- Jesus died on the cross and then on the third day He came back to life, raised by the power of God the Father.

The resurrection, as far as historians can tell happened on a Sunday, and from very early days, the church had its worship celebrations on Sunday (or the Lord’s Day as they called it), even the Jewish christians who were used to worshipping on the Sabbath. Every week was a celebration of the mystery of the resurrection.

Let’s get the easy stuff out of the way first- Easter eggs and Easter bunnies have nothing to do with the resurrection. Christians do not worship eggs, chickens or rabbits. These things were often used as symbols of spring which in cold climates is about new birth after the death of nature in winter. Christians have often said “Aha! Great teaching aids to help us understand how Jesus’ resurrection brings new life to His followers.” The church in its worship has never elevated these symbols to be important.

The one important Easter symbol for christians is an empty tomb. Christ died, Christ was buried, Christ rose.

Some people say christians should not celebrate Easter because the name itself is derived from an ancient pagan goddess. That’s true, but only in English and German. In most European languages the word used is a variant on the Latin word pascha which refers to the Jewish festival of Passover.

The word Eostre is a Middle English word for the month roughly corresponding to April. Yes it is named after a pagan goddess, but most people back then thought about the month not the deity it was named after. According to the logic of Easter-haters, we should not be able to worship at all in January (named after the Roman god Janus) or March (named after the god Mars) or on any day of the week- all of which in English are named after Roman and Norse gods.

What about the dates which are based on phases of the moon and the equinox? Doesn’t that seem a bit like pagan worship?

Well Genesis tells us that God gave us the sun and the moon to mark the seasons. Jesus was crucified at the time of Passover, the date of which was set by the Habrew lunar calendar. The early church Fathers thought that Easter should be near Passover but not necessarily on the same day. In other words Easter is linked to the Passover festival but is not the same thing. So it was decided at the Council of Nicea  in 325 that Easter would be celebrated by all the churches on the first Sunday after the full moon following the spring equinox (normally March 21st).

Just because Easter is linked to a phase of the moon and to the equinox, like some pagan feasts are, does not make it in itself a pagan feast.

So this year celebrate Good Friday and Easter as good christian festivals. The most important event in the history of humanity was the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He purchased redemption for our souls and offers eternal life for evryone who will follow Him.

 

 

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