Easter is considered one of the most important holy days for Christians today. It is supposed to be the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. The resurrection is a bedrock belief of Christians. However some today wonder what does the Easter bunny, hunting eggs and other Easter customs have to do with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Where did these customs come from and what do they mean?
Many of the symbols and customs of Easter originate from ancient peoples who worshiped pagan gods. These customs were instituted long before Christianity was in existence. The Catholic encyclopedia for school and home says, ” The first record of bunnies as an Easter symbol is found in Germany in 1572.” The Catholic priest Francis X. Weiser made the point that, ” Some of the popular traditions of lent and Easter date back to ancient nature rites.” Clearly first century Christians did not institute the Easter customs that people celebrate today. The very name Easter relates to a pagan diety. The Westminster dictionary of the bible states , ” Originally the spring festival in honor of the Teutonic goddess of light and spring known in Anglo-Saxon as Eastre. As early as the 8th century the name was transferred by the Anglo-Saxons to the Christian festival designed to celebrate the resurrection of Christ.” Alexander Hislop in his book The Two Babylons relates Easter to the Chaldean Goddess Astarte, the Queen of Heaven, otherwise known as Ishtar.
The symbols of the rabbit and the egg also have pagan origins. ” The egg was a symbol of life and fertility.” Encylopedia Americanna. The Encylopedia Britannica states, ” The rabbit is a symbol of fertility in ancient Egypt.” The early Christians did not celebrate the resurrection of Christ, instead they commemorated his death. The encyclopedia Britannica says, ” There is no indication of the observance of the Easter Festival in the New Testament.”
Knowing the origin of Easter customs give us the ability to make choices. We may find the Pagan origins of this holiday doesn’t really bother us and we will continue to join in celebrating these customs. On the other hand if the amalgam of Christian and Pagan rites makes us feel uncomfortable then we can choose not to participate. What ever our reasons, knowing the origins of Easter customs is interesting and informative.