The Pagan Origins of Easter

It is well known that Easter is the celebration of Jesus Christ’s Resurrection to Christians.  In the Christian narrative, on Good Friday, Jesus Christ was buried after his execution. The tomb was open on Sunday, and Jesus revealed that he was resurrected. Easter today is celebrated by many with a church service and Easter egg hunts where children can find little goodies and candy in Easter eggs. Many people also color boiled eggs and have an Easter lunch or dinner. People dress up in new Easter clothes.

What is not well-known to most, and not acknowledged by Christian doctrine is that Easter had pagan origins. Prime examples are symbols like new life, blooming flowers, Easter eggs and of course, the Easter bunny! Easter started out as another celebration before it became the Christian Easter. Many spring celebrations predate Christianity and nature plays a big role in many pagan religions. When the Christians came and converted various pagan groups, they decided to incorporate the native traditions and customs into Christianity. That was a good idea, as it made Christianity less of an imposition and more acceptable. Thus, Easter was a pagan celebration reinvented around a Christian narrative. Some pagan holdovers are the fact that Easter has not set date, rather governed by phases of the moon. Also, Easter eggs are a holdover from egg exchanging customs, common in the ancient world. The Easter Bunny is also a hold over too! It comes from the pagan festival of Eostre, a northern goddess who’s symbol is a rabbit or hare.

    Another lesser-known fact was that there are plenty of narratives from other religions regarding a deity’s death and resurrection.  ” The general symbolic story of the death of the son (sun) on a cross (the constellation of the Southern Cross) and his rebirth, overcoming the powers of darkness, was a well worn story in the ancient world. There were plenty of parallel, rival resurrected saviours too. The Sumerian goddess Inanna, or Ishtar, was hung naked on a stake, and was subsequently resurrected and ascended from the underworld. One of the oldest resurrection myths is Egyptian Horus. Born on 25 December, Horus and his damaged eye became symbols of life and rebirth. Mithras was born on what we now call Christmas day, and his followers celebrated the spring equinox. Even as late as the 4th century AD, the sol invictus, associated with Mithras, was the last great pagan cult the church had to overcome. Dionysus was a divine child, resurrected by his grandmother. Dionysus also brought his mum, Semele, back to life. (The Pagan Roots of Easter by Heather Mcdougall)


About History Is Interesting

I like ancient and medieval history!
This entry was posted in Ancient History, Holidays, Religion. Bookmark the permalink.

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