Friday, April 22, 2011

Is Easter Pagan??

Is Easter pagan?


I came across this article and thought it might be helpful for those who have questions about the origins of the commemoration of Christ's Resurrection.

Was Easter Borrowed From a Pagan Holiday?

Here's a little snippet to whet the appetite:

Anyone encountering anti-Christian polemics will quickly come up against the accusation that a major festival practiced by Christians across the globe—namely, Easter—was actually borrowed or rather usurped from a pagan celebration. I often encounter this idea among Muslims who claim that later Christians compromised with paganism to dilute the original faith of Jesus.
The argument largely rests on the supposed pagan associations of the English and German names for the celebration (Easter in English and Ostern in German). It is important to note, however, that in most other European languages, the name for the Christian celebration is derived from the Greek word Pascha, which comes frompesach, the Hebrew word for Passover. Easter is the Christian Passover festival. 
Of course, even if Christians did engage incontextualization—expressing their message and worship in the language or forms of the local people—that in no way implies doctrinal compromise. Christians around the world have sought to redeem the local culture for Christ while purging it of practices antithetical to biblical norms. After all, Christians speak of "Good Friday," but they are in no way honoring the worship of the Norse/Germanic queen of the gods Freya by doing so. 
But, in fact, in the case of Easter the evidence suggests otherwise: that neither the commemoration of Christ's death and resurrection nor its name are derived from paganism.

And for what its worth, the Orthodox do not generally use the term "Easter" to describe this holy day.  I've heard it used by some but the correct term for us is "Pascha."

Okay, I'm off to decorate the church for this afternoon!


  1. There is still some debate about the Etymology of the word Easter. And certainly if we look at the modern American celebration, it's hard to miss the similarities between Eostara, a pagan fertility Holiday whose cymbals are (among other things) eggs and bunnies. That said, I agree with you.

    There is a limited amount of symbols in the world, and if two faiths use them to mean something completely different, I don't think that means one faith isn't really what it says it is.

    Of course it's also a bit dishonest not to see that throughout History, faiths have borrowed symbols and such that it liked from other faiths, and incorporated it into it's own. Christianity is hardly the first to do that.

  2. I think what is really important is that we commemorate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. That is an actual event in history and Christians have been commemorating this event since at least the second century. That is the crux of our faith. "If Christ has not been raised then our faith is meaningless and we are still in our sins." What is wrong with celebrating that??

    The Orthodox have never shied away from admitting that they took certain pagan symbols from the culture around them and Christianized them.

    For example, we dye eggs red for Pascha because the egg represents the new life that we have in Christ because of His shed blood for us on the cross. Now, this is a tradition with a little "t" so I think its safe to say that in this case, what is symbolized is more important then where the symbol came from. (I say this cuz in many cases, the object is as important as what it symbolizes, such as the Bread and Wine of the Eucharist... there MUST be bread and wine because God Himself instituted those symbols).

    I just don't get what all the anti-Easter hoopla is about. We don't do anything Easter Bunny/Basket/Eggs/Candy or anything like that in our home because we want our focus to be on the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, but that conviction has nothing to do with alleged identification with pagan symbolism.

    And funnily enough, we also have have an Orthodox version of an Easter basket... Pascha Baskets are filled with all the stuff we didn't eat during the Great Fast: cheese, meat, oil, wine. In some cultures, those baskets are brought to the Church and blessed. The Greeks don't do that, but I think the Russians do. Its pretty cool. My kids don't fast yet, so there isn't really a point to having those.

    Can. Not. Wait. For. Meat.

    I can't believe I just said that...

  3. Our family does not celebrate easter, but we do observe passover as the Bible tells us to pass on the historical and theological lessons of the day.

    I guess what I don't understand then is why easter is celebrated and not passover. Muse Mama is correct above in stating the historical origin of what some call Ishtar and its connections to pagan goddess/fertility worship.

    Here is a good link:!/note.php?note_id=10150226368200280

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