Like the frantic shopping for gifts at Christmas, the fun-filled coloring of eggs at Easter tends to obscure the real meaning of the feast.
It will probably be eye-opening for many that the word “Easter” has its roots in paganism. That’s hard to believe but true. And, strangely, the term is never used in the original Scriptures. So, a little history:
Most scholars agree that the term derived from “Eastre”, the Teutonic goddess of spring, originating during the building of the tower of Babel and not long after the biblical Flood. Profane and idolatrous practices were commonplace at the time. When the people, speaking in different languages that they believed was God’s punishment for their sinful ways, were scattered around the earth, one of the names given to one of their false gods was Ishtar ( pronounced “Easter”).Other names were “Eoster”,”Astarte”, “Ostera” and “Eastre”. She was the Mother Goddess of fertility and spring.
Since the rabbit was well known for its fertility, worshipping the rabbit as the reincarnation of the goddess was an easy leap ( no pun intended). And the Easter bunny was born. As for the egg, in almost all ancient cultures, eggs had been held as an emblem of new life. Rabbits were known to lay their eggs in the grass, giving rise to the egg hunts. Why we color them besides making them more festive is anybody’s guess.
When the Anglo-Saxons were converted to Christianity, the pagan holiday, which occurred around the same time as the Christian memorial of Jesus' Resurrection, was combined with the Christian celebration and given the name Easter. What a coincidence that Christmas is celebrated around the time of Saturnalia, the harvest feast, another pagan holiday. Thank the Lord we didn’t change the name of Christmas.
Originally, because of this coincidence of dates, there were some pagan practices performed with the Christian celebrations of Easter. And, unwittingly, in a way, we’re still doing it. Today, Easter is often commercialized, with all the focus on eggs, the Easter bunny, and dressing in fine, new clothes. Witness the egg-rolling on the White House lawn on the day Christ rose from the dead. Because of this, many churches are starting to refer to Easter as Resurrection Day or the Feast of the Resurrection.
It’s too bad that Christians have “Christianized” pagan celebrations. The good news is that while we are aware the term is still used, we realize we are not celebrating the pagan goddess, but, rather, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
There are those who feel this distraction of eggs and bunnies is the work of the devil. Who are we to argue? It would be wonderful if we just concentrated only on the remarkable miracle of the Resurrection that is the foundation of our belief. Let’s not worry about what we call this momentous event, but, simply, thank God it happened.
So, sorry kids. Not only is there no Santa Claus, there is no Easter bunny.
There is, however, the Risen Savior.