Easter, The Oldest Christian Festival – Or Is It?
For children it matters not who or what Easter is celebrating – so long as they get basketfuls of coloured Easter eggs and candy on that special day. For adults, gifts often include flowers and plants. Many folks buy flowers and plants for themselves as well as sending these gifts to others through their local florist.
Of course, we know Easter is a Christian celebration of rebirth and the resurrection of Christ. So you might find the following statement rather interesting: Easter existed before Christianity.
Back then it wasn’t called Easter – that’s just the name of the Goddess who was being celebrated at the time. Actually her real name was Eostre and she was a Greek goddess. Eostre was the goddess of spring and was believed to leave this world when winter came calling, and only returned at the vernal equinox – March 21st.
During her return she would bring warmth, life and new beginnings. As with many pagan celebrations it was colourful, passionate and a bit too hedonistic for this new religion beginning to make headway a few thousand years ago.
Christianity was replacing the ideology of many gods and it was tough sell for the people of the time – they liked their holidays and celebrations and did not want to forgo them. So the wise Christians of the time figured out that if they rolled their celebration of Jesus’ resurrection in with the pagan celebration of Eostre’s return – it would all work.
As with most pagan celebrations, they followed the equinoxes – the Christianization needed to change things a little and made the “special day” always a Sunday and they made it the first sunday after the first full moon after the equinox. This is why Easter Sunday can occur between March 21st (the equinox) and April 25th.
Over the years Easter has absorbed many ideas, customs and symbols into what has now become a truly universal celebration spanning thousands of years. Take for instance the Easter eggs – an odd concept for sure, however Roman and Greek literature shows that they revered the eggs as a symbol of life, and eggs even held special solar significance too.
Ironically the egg idea was also popular in Germany during the 1600’s when children would awake on Easter morning and excitedly search for the Oschter Haws who would lay coloured eggs in nests. This hare (soon to become a bunny) bringing eggs made its way to North America via the German settlers of Pennsylvania.
Easter lilies symbolize purity, Jesus and Mary’s resurrection, the glowing white light of heaven and have beautiful stories about how these lilies were found in Mary’s empty tomb after her burial, and they also were said to have grown at Jesus’ feet as he hung from the cross, dying in the garden of Gethsemane.
The Easter basket, the Sunday feast and the attending of Easter mass may appear to be Christian concepts but they are in fact Romain and Greek too – pre Christian by many years. Taking your food to be blessed made good sense to the pagans of the time, giving flowers to the gods to ensure a bountiful harvest was also just basic good sense, and feasting has always been popular the world over -regardless of your religious beliefs.
So as you celebrate Easter this year, take a moment and no matter what faith you follow, remember this – Spring is only just around the corner.