A friend of mine asked me to read a comment someone had made on his Facebook page about how Easter was a vernal pagan festival marking the change of seasons, which Christians hijacked and converted into a vicious blood memorial. I am pretty sure that most folk reading my blog are Christians, but I thought that it might be good, this ‘Easter’ Monday, to comment.
In all probability the word ‘Easter’ is a corruption of Ishtar, a pagan goddess also known as Astarte or Beltis the queen of heaven. Yes, Easter Eggs were used by pagans as fertility symbols and hot cross buns were most likely part of their rituals fifteen hundred years before the advent of Christ. By the way, Jeremiah was probably condemning this practice when he wrote, ‘the women knead the dough and make cakes of bread for the Queen of Heaven’ (Jer 7:18).
But here is the thing. We Christians do not celebrate the changing of the seasons at Solstice. We do not bake hot cross buns as votive offerings to the queen of heaven. We don’t even use eggs as fertility symbols or eat chocolate bunnies to gain virility (I guess that would make the poor things hot cross bunnies). No, we honor the death of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary and we celebrate His rising from the tomb three days later.
We do this every year at roughly the same time as our Jewish cousins celebrate Passover. Why? Because Jesus died over the Passover of 29AD in fulfillment of the original Hebrew Passover held around 3,500 years ago when God delivered His people from Egypt. Jesus Christ died to redeem humanity from bondage to sin and death and rose again so that all who believe in Him can have eternal life in His name. This is what we celebrate!
I dislike the word Easter and would much rather call the Sunday service at this time each year ‘Resurrection Sunday’. We are not aping pagan tradition when we meet; we are commemorating the most significant event in all of Earth’s history, the death and resurrection, not of the queen of heaven, but of the Son of the Most High God, the Lord Jesus Christ.
While I am at it I may as well say that I also dislike the use of the phrase, Good Friday. ‘Good’ may be a corruption of ‘God’ or of the German ‘gute’ (possibly meaning ‘holy’) but I still don’t like it. Jesus could not have been crucified on a Friday because then the third day, the day of resurrection (Matthew 17:23), would be a Monday.
We know that the early church met weekly on the first day of each week, Sunday (Acts 20:7), and so Jesus would have been crucified on a Thursday, not a Friday. (Yes I am familiar with the alternative calculations for the crucifixion and resurrection but I am convinced that Jesus died on a Thursday and rose on a Sunday.)
So dear brothers and sisters in Christ, there is nothing pagan about Passover or the day we have chosen to honor what Jesus Christ has done for us. But, hey, eat as many hot cross buns and chocolate eggs and bunnies as you think your waist line can stand. They are only spicy buns and sweets after all.