Today, Christians all over the world celebrateEaster as the resurrection of Jesus Christ. But it was not always like this.
According to history, there is a pagan, origin story behind what is now regarded as a religious holiday.
Origin of Easter
The origin of Easter can be traced to the pagan festival called “Ishtar”, which is pronounced “Easter.” On this day, Anglo-Saxons honored Eeostre or Eastre — a goddess of spring and fertility. She is also known as Ostara, Austra, the goddess of the dawn and a bringer of light.
Her symbol was the hare (a symbol of fertility) and eggs are associated with this goddess. This story is backed by the writings of an eighth-century monk and historian called Venerable Bede.
He wrote, “Eosturmononath has a name which is now translated as ‘Paschal month,’ and which was once called after a goddess of theirs named Eostre, in whose honor feasts were celebrated in that month. Now they designate the Paschal season by her name, calling the joys of the new rite by the time-honoured name of the old observance” (De Temporum Ratione).
The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary adds: “The word Easter is of Saxon origin, Eastra, the goddess of spring, in whose honor sacrifices were offered about Passover time each year. By the eighth century Anglo–Saxons had adopted the name to designate the celebration of Christ’s resurrection.”
Easter meets Christianity
Despite its arguable pagan root, Easter became a Christian celebration in 314 after the first Sunday after the full moon (the Paschal Full Moon) was chosen as the official date by The First Council of Nicaea.
The council ordered that “the great event of the year was the Easter season. The period immediately before was one of fasting in commemoration of Christ’s sufferings. Customs differed in various parts of the empire.
“In Rome, a forty hours’ fast and vigil was held in remembrance of Christ’s rest in the grave. This was extended, by the time of the Council of Nicaea to a forty days’ Lent. All fasting ended with the dawn of Easter morning, and the Pentecostal period of rejoicing then began.
“In that time there was no fasting or kneeling in prayer in public worship. Easter Eve was the favorite season for baptism, that the newly initiate might participate in the Easter joy.”
Since then, Easter has become a day to remember and honor the resurrection of Jesus Christ.