Why is it called Easter? Origin of Easter
The date of Easter, when the resurrection of Jesus is said to have taken place, changes from year to year. The reason for this variation is that Easter always falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the spring equinox.
Easter is quite similar to other major holidays like Christmas and Halloween, which have evolved over the last 200 years or so. In all of these holidays, Christian and non-Christian (pagan) elements have continued to blend together. Similar was the case with Easter, which falls in close proximity to another key point in the solar year: the vernal equinox (around March 20), when there are equal periods of light and darkness. For those in northern latitudes, the coming of spring is often met with excitement, as it means an end to the cold days of winter.
Spring also means the coming back to life of plants and trees that have been dormant for winter, as well as the birth of new life in the animal world. Given the symbolism of new life and rebirth, it was only natural to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus at this time of the year.
The naming of the celebration as “Easter” seems to go back to the name of a pre-Christian goddess in England, Eostre, who was celebrated at beginning of spring. The only reference to this goddess comes from the writings of the Venerable Bede, a British monk who lived in the late seventh and early eighth century. As religious studies scholar Bruce Forbes summarizes: “Bede wrote that the month in which English Christians were celebrating the resurrection of Jesus had been called Eosturmonath in Old English, referring to a goddess named Eostre. And even though Christians had begun affirming the Christian meaning of the celebration, they continued to use the name of the goddess to designate the season.”
Bede was so influential for later Christians that the name stuck, and hence Easter remains the name by which the English, Germans and Americans refer to the festival of Jesus’ resurrection.
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Is Easter a Pagan Holiday?
By Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg -April 4, 202118464 228
There is a growing number of Christians who think that the celebration of “Easter” is rooted in pagan traditions. One of the basic assumptions is that the name “Easter” is a Christian appropriation of “Ishtar,” a Babylonian fertility goddess. Even though the words may sound similar, they probably have no etymological connection. The English word “Easter” likely comes from the Proto-Germanic “austron,” which means “sunrise” – arguably a fitting name for a celebration that commemorates Jesus’ rising from the dead.
It is important to understand that outside of the English-speaking world, “Easter” is known by its proper name “Pascha.” This means that the majority of Christians in the world celebrate “Pascha” — an Aramaic synonym of the Hebrew Pesach, which means “Passover,” rather than “Easter.”
During this feast, traditional Christians celebrate the work of Christ’s redemption, believing that only in His resurrection is God’s forgiveness truly sealed. Because of Jesus’ resurrection, the judgment of God passes over believers just as the Angel of Death passed over the Israelite homes marked by the blood of the lamb during their captivity in Egypt.
However, an average, English-speaking Christian often fails to see the direct connection between “Easter/Pascha” and “Passover/Pesach.” Many of the rituals and customs appear to be different. Also, in order to ensure that no one connected (and therefore confused) the two, it was decided at the Council of Nicea (325 CE) that the feast of Easter/Pascha would be celebrated according to a different calendar: not on the 14th of Nisan as was originally decreed in the Torah of Moses.
Is Easter a Pagan holiday? Not quite. It is fundamentally a biblical holiday, albeit one that has been robbed of its true Jewish character and taken out of its original Israelite setting.