What do You Celebrate at Easter? Death, Resurrection or Spring?
The History of the name Easter
The history of Easter is just as uncertain as the history of many other Christian holidays.
It all centres around the name Easter which is only used by the Anglo-Saxon world and the New World they populated. Elsewhere, the holiday is named after Pesach, Hebrew for Passover, and the Greek Pascha. Pasque and Paschal are two modern versions in European languages.
It’s thought that the name may derive from the Germanic goddess of spring, Eostre or perhaps the Babylonian and Assyrian goddess of fertility and love, Ishtar. There’s little evidence of either and no hard evidence at all.
I did find an amusing account of the reason Easter bunnies lay eggs. It seems Eostre loved children and was followed by them wherever she went. As the goddess of spring and fertility, she was also followed by singing birds and her symbolic animal was the rabbit. One day she turned a bird into a rabbit thinking she was rewarding him. The children pointed out to her how sad the creature was now that it couldn’t sing or fly.
As a Wiccan, she was not to do harm to any creature. For doing so, she lost most of her powers. Out of remorse, every spring when her powers were at their highest she used them to turn the rabbit into a bird so he could fly and sing if only for a few days. During this time, he could lay eggs as he really was a bird after all. Certainly there is no problem that the bird was male.
It’s thought by some that Christian missionaries to the Germanic tribes in the second century A.D. absorbed their spring celebrations into the Christian celebration of the resurrection of Christ to ease them into Christianity. Eostre was also used on the calendar as a season probably derived from the name of the goddess of spring.
More About the Rabbits and Eggs of Easter
Rabbits have been a symbol of death, life and fertility in many cultures. The rabbit has been found on many Roman graves and can be found in Christian cemeteries of all centuries.
In some countries, it’s not a rabbit who brings Easter gifts. In Switzerland, it’s a cuckoo, and in Germany it can be a fox, stork, rooster or chick.
Easter is the celebration of the resurrection of Christ. Easter eggs are thought to represent the tomb which is broken open on Easter Sunday. The early Eastern Orthodox Christians would paint them red to represent the blood of Christ. Rolling eggs is supposed to represent the rolling away of the stone from the tomb.What do you celebrate at Easter? Bunnies and eggs, death, resurrection, or Spring? Click To Tweet
Eggs have been a symbol of new life, rebirth and fertility long before the resurrection of Christ.
Eggs were one of the food items banned during the 40 days of fasting at Lent. They were boiled and preserved to keep them from spoiling and by Easter Sunday they were a treat.
Easter Parades May have Started a Religious Event
Newly baptized Christians would wear white for a week at Easter to symbolize their rebirth. Those already baptized wore a new set of clothes as a symbol of renewal. They would parade in their white or new clothes after mass behind a crucifix or an Easter candle. It is thought to be the start of the Easter Parade. In some cultures this parade is still held and is part of the Passion of Christ reenactment.
This seems to be another one of the symbols that has been stripped of its original meaning and taken into popular culture. The Easter parade and Easter Bonnet are often just an excuse for a new outfit without understanding the symbolism of renewal in Christ.
How Does Easter Relate to Passover?
Early Christ followers were Jewish and celebrated Passover. They understood Jesus Christ was the final Passover Lamb. He fulfilled all the requirements of the lamb that was sacrificed in the temple at Jerusalem by the high priest to atone for the sins of the whole nation. Every detail was prophesied in the Old Testament and when he died, we were no longer separated from God.Do you understand the relationship of Passover to Easter? Click To Tweet
It’s much more than the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. His death was the work He came to do. He arose and ascended into heaven to return to His glory.
In the reading I did for this article, I was saddened by many Christian articles that only mention the resurrection. One I read went so far as to say the Passover happened to coincide with the crucifixion of Jesus for blasphemy and that is why in some languages the name for Easter is Passover.
There is some lack of understanding of the cross. I have a greater appreciation for a sect that only celebrates His Death on Friday. It is a very reverent memorial service for what He did for us.
As happened to other holidays, Constantine wanted to separate Christianity from Jewish ways. The Christian holiday separated from its ties to Passover and moved to always being on Sunday by the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. The Christian world now celebrated His resurrection on the Sunday and His victory over death while downplaying the last sacrificial Lamb of the Jewish Passover.
For Christians, the fact that Jesus paid the price for sin on the cross so we may have a relationship with God is the very foundation of our faith. It’s not a miracle that He arose. It was part of God’s plan to have His Son with Him again after He redeemed the world and brought us back to Himself.
Easter Has been Commercialized Too
It’s a sad fact that many today celebrate Easter without any acknowledgement of Christianity. Others give it a nod but don’t understand what God did for us on the cross.
88% of parents prepare an Easter basket. 16 billion jellybeans and 90 million chocolate bunnies are sold.
Even the card companies have found a way to commercialize Easter. It’s now the fourth largest card-giving day behind Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day.
For 2000 years we’ve been mixing traditions and blending customs. Easter hasn’t escaped.
How and What do You Celebrate at Easter?
We actually celebrate at our church camp with our brothers and sisters in Christ who travel great distances to be together. We call it Feast after the Feast of Passover. Many also bring Easter treats for the kids as it’s a time of celebration.
How do you celebrate the atoning sacrifice of our Lord? Do you understand how Easter and Passover fit together? Have you ever wondered why we call it Easter? Leave a comment and share on social.