Note: this post contains some intencse sarcasm that may not translate well through text. I do not mean to offend.
Yes it’s that time of year again, where the shops are full of a variety of egg and bunny themed chocolate and your friends are getting excited that they can almost eat/drink whatever they decided to give up for lent. Don’t forget the promise of a super long weekend! That’s right today is Maundy Thursday which mean this Sunday is Easter, the climax in the holiest week in the Christian Calendar.
But have you ever wondered what on earth does the whole Easter eggs and Easter bunny tradition have to do with
zombie-Jesus sorry the resurrection of the Son of God? Well if you are aware that the date for Christmas was chosen as basically a hostile takeover of a pagan festival then it will come as no surprise that is pretty much what happened when deciding this festival too – shock horror the founding members of the Christian faith couldn’t think of an original festival date (I mean they did steal half of their holy book from the Jews, so you know…).
So where does Easter come from?
Well fear not, the internet, as always was on hand to help me solve this very question!
So first off the actual origin of the word taken from the online Etymology dictionary;
Easter (n.)Old English Easterdæg, from Eastre (Northumbrian Eostre), from Proto-Germanic *austron-, “dawn,” also the name of a goddess of fertility and spring, perhaps originally of sunrise, whose feast was celebrated at the spring equinox, from *aust- “east, toward the sunrise” (compare east), from PIE *aus- (1) “to shine” (especially of the dawn); see aurora.
Ok so it seems it refers to a goddess of fertility and spring, which considering the time of the year when it seems all the animals are having offspring plus winter is now over and plants are starting to grow again etc so all in all it seems like a pretty good time to celebrate this kind of thing.
I then looked a bit further and found an article in the guardian by Heather Mcdougall (seems she beat me too the idea!) and she had some interesting ideas on the whole thing too ( you can read her whole article here).
In reference to my earlier point about Christianity stealing other people’s ideas, Heather pointed out that the whole Son of god gets crucified on a cross and then is reborn story resembles the more ancient story of the death of the sun on the southern cross constellation.
In an ironic twist, the Cybele cult flourished on today’s Vatican Hill. Cybele’s lover Attis, was born of a virgin, died and was reborn annually. This spring festival began as a day of blood on Black Friday, rising to a crescendo after three days, in rejoicing over the resurrection. There was violent conflict on Vatican Hill in the early days of Christianity between the Jesus worshippers and pagans who quarrelled over whose God was the true, and whose the imitation. What is interesting to note here is that in the ancient world, wherever you had popular resurrected god myths, Christianity found lots of converts. So, eventually Christianity came to an accommodation with the pagan Spring festival. Although we see no celebration of Easter in the New Testament, early church fathers celebrated it, and today many churches are offering “sunrise services” at Easter – an obvious pagan solar celebration. The date of Easter is not fixed, but instead is governed by the phases of the moon – how pagan is that?
Ok so back to the Bunnies and Eggs, remember that goddess from the definition above? well it turns out her symbol was a rabbit or a hare and the exchange of eggs is an ancient custom. Also get this, you know those hot-crossed buns you love to devour at this time of year well they aren’t truly Christian either! Well in the Old Testament we see the Israelites baking sweet buns for an idol (although the recipe may have changed a little since then). the early church tried to stop this too but there were too many defiant cake-baking pagan women so they kinda gave in the whole idea.
So basically Easter is a pagan festival that has its roots in the whole fertility and coming of spring/spring equinox. It has survived so long because it’s fun and those ancient symbols are still relevant today (if more chocolaty).
I hope you have a great Easter!