As a child I remember sitting through service on Easter Sunday. The longest sermon of the year, although for some reason I was intrigued. Maybe it was because I knew that when I got home a big Easter basket, a few new toys and so much chocolate candy that half of it would see the following Easter was waiting for me at home.
In all of my gluttony on Easter Sunday I never failed to question where my chocolate Jesus was. Where were my chocolate burrow, or palm tree and crucifix? This is what Pastor Bob talked about in his sermon every year. He never mentioned an Easter bunny, or an Easter basket. He never alluded to a biblical Easter egg hunt.
As I would come down from my sugar high and smile proudly at my bounty of found plastic Easter Eggs filled with money and chocolate I no longer cared why, I was just happy it was all mine.
Now I’m thirty years old, with two little boys of my own running around the yard searching for their share of the Easter bounty, and I have to ask myself why all over again.
Have you ever wondered why the celebration of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection is celebrated with an Easter bunny and colored Easter eggs? Well, the answers may surprise you. They surprised me. Like many holidays, including Christmas, Halloween and Mayday, Easter’s roots lie deep in the pagan religion, dating back centuries before Christianity.
Paganism is the earliest known religion. Although there are many facades of worship encompassed in the pagan religion the most relevant description of pagan belief is the worship of the Goddess, otherwise known as Mother Nature. Despite popular belief pagans do not worship Satan, practice human sacrifice or conjure up black magic.
While most of us know Easter as the celebration of Christ’s resurrection it was first a pagan celebration known as Eastre and celebrated in central and northern Europe. It was, and still is for some, the celebration of the Vernal (Spring) Equinox and the Fertility Goddess, Eastre.
The Christian church converted many pagans by infusing the Christian God and customs with already existing pagan tradition and celebration rituals. Easter is one of many examples. Some may say it was an evil trick while others may say it was genius marketing. In order to convert the pagans, Christians chose to celebrate on or around the dates of pagan celebrations, keeping most of the rituals and traditions intact and only substituting their God, their names and their religion.
It is no coincidence that Easter and Eastre are nearly identical in spelling. Nor is it a coincidence that Easter takes place around the same time as the spring equinox. Easter celebrates the resurrection of Christ while Eastre celebrates the resurrection of spring.
I know what you’re thinking. None of this answers the original question of ‘Why the celebration of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection is celebrated with an Easter bunny and colored Easter eggs?’
It’s easy to believe that the Easter bunny is a creation of commercial America. Well, that’s wrong. At the celebration of the pagan festival of Eastre, pagan’s worshiped a rabbit, the earthly symbol of the Goddess, Eastre. Thus, Peter Cotton Tail. Eastre was also symbolized with an egg. The egg symbolized fertility in nature and the season’s rebirth from the long winter months. Eggs were used in these celebrations as well. The eggs were painted with bright colors and, again they represented the resurrection of spring.
They were then given as gifts to fellow pagans. Although I now know why my children eat chocolate bunnies and search for colored eggs on Easter Sunday, and I have a pretty good idea why Pastor Bob has never mentioned paganism and the Fertility Goddess, Eastre in his sermon, I have to wonder is my family really better off knowing that the Easter bunny originated from another religion. I don’t think so. The holidays are hectic enough without the thought of ancient religions dueling for our time and allegiance, besides there is something magical about the mystery of the Easter Bunny and his Easter Eggs. But I am a man of equality so I would like to be the first, maybe ever, to wish you a happy Eastre, and it’s more famous by product, Easter. Happy Easter.