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Is Easter Pagan?

Easter is not a Pagan Holiday

Spring flowers lining an outdoor staircase

Easter is not a pagan (non-Christian) holiday, and the billions of Christians who annually celebrate it should be proof of that. Easter is (and always has been) the feast of the resurrection of Jesus, falling on the first Sunday on or after the first full moon after the spring equinox.

The origins of Easter are Christian and Jewish. Christians have used universal human and nature symbols to celebrate Easter that are not specifically Jewish, but that does not mean they are pagan.

Every year around Easter time, some Christians (often from fringe groups like the Jehovah's Witnesses) read something posted on Facebook or hear from a well-meaning friend that this Christian holiday is "pagan" or has "pagan origins."

Often, they claim that the name "Easter" derives from the name of a pagan goddess. Even if true, only the name is derived from a pagan source.

This probably happened because when whole towns converted to Christianity from paganism, out of habit most people simply referred to the new Christian festival by the name of the old festival that used to be celebrated until Christian missionaries arrived. In our town, we had a "Cardinal Market" grocery store for years. Even after the Cardinal Market closed, people still called the new market by that name. The same is true of Easter.

Another possibility is that missionaries replaced the former festivals with the Christian ones gradually, so as to be able to convert pagans without immediately turning them off. While this may not be as "pure" as would be ideal, nonetheless, it worked: Europe became Christian.

Also, we should note that the festival of the Resurrection is not even called Easter in other languages, but is a derivation of the word "Pascha" (meaning "Passover"). This shows that even if the name Easter has non-Christian origins in English, the festival itself has been Christian since the beginning.

Some of the customs associated with modern, secular, Easter are likely non-Christian in origin. For example, rabbits and eggs are both fertility symbols, and could have been used in spring religious rituals. Since both symbolize life, they are great analogies of spring re-birth. This explains the reason why many children happily look forward to eggs brought by a rabbit. My view is that this is harmless fun, since nobody really knows (or cares) that these customs are derived from pagan symbols. Either way, these are not a part of the Christian celebration of Easter anyway.


Updated 04-06-2017

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