To all my fellow Christian friends out there, I have what may sound as a radical suggestion for you…forget Easter. “What?!?” you might say. Don’t you think it is important to remember the resurrection? Absolutely. The resurrection is a cornerstone of the faith. As Paul reminds us “And if Christ was not raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your trust in God is useless.” 1 Corinthians 15: 13 (NLT).
So what’s the deal with Easter? The problem is that Easter is not a Christian holiday. It is of pagan origins. For starters, how many times does the day Easter show up in the Bible? Unless you have a King James translation of the Bible, the answer is almost certainly zero. For the record, in the King James version, Acts 12:4 reads, “And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.” Now even if you hold that Easter and the resurrection of Jesus are related, using the term Easter makes no sense here. Why would Herod, of whom the above verse references, care about Easter? Therefore, every (or most every) other translation uses the word Passover as opposed to Easter.
Easter itself is named after a pagan goddess, Eostre, and was a celebration of this goddess and the coming of spring. Europeans celebrated this rite (or one similar) long before they had ever heard of Jesus.
So how did the most important date in Christianity and this pagan holiday wed? After all, we know that Jesus’ death and resurrection historically took place before, during, and after the Jewish Passover. Why then is his resurrection not tied to the dates of Passover?
Prior to the First Council of Nicaea in 325, some Christians celebrated the Resurrection at the same time that Jews celebrated Passover, while others did not. At the Council, the majority opinion further distanced Christianity from its Jewish roots by detaching the celebration of the Resurrection with Passover. The dates of Passover, taking place from the 15th of Nisan to the 21st, differed from year to year as the Jewish people use a lunisolar calendar (as opposed to a lunar year used both by the Julian calendar then and our Gregorian calendar now). The celebration of the resurrection was to now take place on the first Sunday after the full moon taking place after the vernal equinox, March 21.
With the Resurrection now divorced from the Passover, as Christianity spread to Northern Europe it supplanted and mutated with the previous pagan religions. Old gods and goddesses such as Eostre fell out of favor but their holidays and festivities did not. In order to make the transition easier, many local traditions melded with this new religion. Thus bunnies and eggs, reminders of fertility, the arrival of spring, and foreign gods now share equal, or even greater time with the true Christian meaning for this holiday.
For example, while suffering with the flu a few weeks back, I visited my local drug store. Signs wished customers a “happy Easter” and their shelves were filled with related products. Guess how many mentions or images of Jesus, the crucifixion, and the resurrection I could find? Zero. The shelves were stocked with eggs and bunnies created from a variety of chocolates and other sweets. Given a choice between Eostre and Jesus, clearly paganism wins out in our society.
Looking back, it didn’t have to end up like this. But the willingness to modify Christianity to coincide calendar-wise with old festivals, as well as a refusal to stand up for the true meaning of our holidays has led us to this state. As opposed to focusing on Jesus, the Messiah, we now have Santa, the Quid Pro Quo Materialist god, and the Easter Bunny, the Chocolate god.
What would be the easiest solution? Although many might scoff at the idea, change the dates of the commemoration of the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus away from pagan holidays and back to their historic norms (likely sometime in September and the Passover). Without the present trappings, maybe everyone will recognize Christian holidays as being about something else…Jesus perhaps?
If you want to celebrate both Easter and Christmas for the seasons that they have become, feel free to do so. Just don’t confuse a Cadbury cream egg or a basket of plastic grass as a sign of anything Christian.
Until next time!