What Is Easter Really All About?
Easter is coming up and, for me, this time of year is always a time to really think. What do I think about? Well… certainly not the Easter bunny or fancy breakfasts or candy or Easter eggs. So, how did Easter start?
It’s impossible to get into all of the details of the beginnings of Easter. There are various stories out there as to how “Easter” actually started.
Explanation #1: “Eostre” was a goddess in Germanic paganism. Bede, an old English monk who lived in the 7th & 8th centuries (673 – 735), was a renowned scholar and writer, famous for work that gained him the title “the Father of English History”. In his work, De Temperon Ratione he states that during the (equivalent) month of April, feasts were given in honor of Eoster by the pagan Anglo-Saxons. The Germanic celebrations included hares and eggs, symbols of fertility. (Hence Easter eggs and the Easter bunny as we know it today.)
Explanation #2: Another possibility starts back in the days of Nimrod (grandson of Noah) and his wife/mother (ugly story). The story goes that she started a religion. Ishtar (pronounced Easter) was a day that celebrated the resurrection of one of their gods, Tammuz, who was believed to be the only begotten son of the moon-goddess and the sun-god. Nimrod’s mother/wife was a powerful queen who became Ishtar to the people. The moon became “Ishtar’s egg”. She claimed that she came down to earth in a giant “moon egg”. She claimed to be the moon goddess and to have gotten pregnant by the sun god, giving birth to Tammuz. The story goes on with the death of Tammuz, 40 days of sorrow during which no meat was to be eaten. Worshippers were to meditate on the mysteries of Baal and Tammuz, make a T at their heart, and eat sacred cakes with a T across them. Every year on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring equinox a celebration was made. They celebrated with rabbits and eggs.
Explanation #3: The name given to the resurrection celebration of Jesus was alba (Latin) meaning white (in reference to the white robes worn during the celebration). Alba had another meaning, “Sunrise”. When the name of the festival was translated into German “sunrise” was chosen in error rather than “white”. This became “Ostern” in German, which has been proposed as the original word for Easter.
There are various other pagan stories (explanations) that talk about virgin births, gods and goddesses, festivals such as the “day of blood” on Black Friday, culminating after three days with celebrations of a resurrection of some god. The stories are actually quite rampant out there.
By the 8th century, the celebration of pagan festivals had been replaced by the Christian “Paschal month”, a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus.
This was not something that Jesus asked us, as His followers, to celebrate. At least it is not found in the Bible. The only “celebration” surrounding Christ’s death and resurrection is the participation at the “Lord’s Table”, remembering the blood He shed for our sins and His body that was broken for us. “Easter” was incorporated into the church tradition long after Christ’s death and resurrection.
But, regardless of what it is called or how it started and why, today it is a rememberance of what Christ did for us on the cross. Because He loved us so much and didn’t want us to be forever separated from God, He chose to come to earth, be born as a baby, live a sinless life, and lay His life down as a perfect sacrifice to die on the cross for us. He took our sins on Himself and paid the penalty in our place. It was a free gift, from Him to us. We cannot do anything in and of ourselves to restore our relationship with God. Only Christ could do that. All we must do is believe in Jesus Christ, repent of our sins, accept His sacrifice of Himself on our behalf, and live for Him.
There is a mighty God who is the One and Only living God. He is not a myth like Tammuz. He is not a man-made statue that doesn’t talk or love us (like Baal). He is not just a story like the Easter Bunny. He is the God of Creation who created each and every one of us. He is ONE God in three (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit) and He wants a relationship with us.
So, this Easter, will you be following myths, worshipping false gods or playing games with the Easter Bunny? Or will you choose to come to the one and only God of Creation and accept the gift He gave you in order to restore a relationship with you? This Easter is a reminder that Jesus (God the Son) died for each and every one of us, taking our sins on Himself and paying the penalty that would otherwise be our penalty to pay. (And that penalty is death… meaning total separation from God.) But, He didn’t remain dead. After three days He rose again, victorious over sin and death. He is alive and at the right hand of God the Father.
So, this Easter, rather than spending time on trivia and myths, we realize the gravity of what He did for us. And we celebrate the fact the death and sin could not hold Him in the grave. He was victorious. He arose. He is alive. He loves you. He wants you to choose to come to Him.