Is Easter of Christian origin? Don't be too sure! You may be surprised to learn what Easter is all about.
EASTER EGGS, Easter bunnies, Easter bonnets — what do they have to do with the story of Jesus? Stop and think for a moment! Can you see any logical connection between brightly colored eggs, cottontail rabbits, new hats and the account of the life, the death and resurrection of Jesus? Certainly no basis exists in the Bible for drawing any such connection, Nor for that matter is there any example in the Bible of Christians attending Easter sunrise services, eating hot cross buns, putting ashes on their foreheads or observing Lent. Yet Easter is considered the most important Christian holiday. It is supposed to be the high point of the religious year. Why then are we unable to find modern Easter traditions revealed and explained in the Bible as the practice of the Church Jesus founded? If Easter traditions don't come from the Bible, where do they come from? Should we participate in them? Would Jesus participate in them?
The Meaning of "Easter"
It is no secret. Almost any dictionary or encyclopedia reveals that the word Easter is derived from the name of a pagan goddess. For example, Webster's Collegiate Dictionary shows that the word Easter comes from the name of an old Teutonic goddess of spring. Notice what an editorial in Christianity Today, a popular magazine of mainstream Christendom, admits, "The derivation of the word Easter is somewhat uncertain, but it had to do with a pagan festival and seems to have been connected with an Anglo-Saxon spring goddess named Eostre" (issue of March 28, 1975). For more than a thousand years before Jesus' birth a festival to Eostre was celebrated in the spring. I t was the season of the budding of new life — the resurrection of nature after the dead of winter. It was a feast of regeneration. Throughout the inhabited world in ancient times spring festivals and various sex rituals were observed to honor the fact that the sun's welcome rays were once again imparting life and warmth. The exaltation of fertility played a prominent part in the festivities. That is where the egg and the rabbit came into the picture. Early in history the egg became a symbol for sex, reproduction and life. The egg represented a resurrection and afterlife and was used to cast magical spells (Funk and Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology and Legend, p. 341). Centuries before Jesus was born, colored eggs were used in religious worship. The hare and rabbit, being among the most fertile animals known, were also included in sex and fertility rites. "The hare represented abundant life and the fertility of the earth.... Because hares were born with eyes open, they were sacred to the 'open-eyed' moon in Egypt, and thus connected with Easter, as the date is set by the moon's orbit to this day. The Germans made the hare sacred to the goddess Eastre, and said that on Easter Eve it would lay eggs for good children" (A Treasury of American Superstitions, p. 361). As Jesus died and was resurrected in the spring, professing Christians in the second century and later, saw in these pagan spring rituals natural symbols of Christ's resurrection to new life. So they merely "borrowed" some of the heathen customs. This in spite of the fact that God strictly commanded His people not to use pagan customs to worship Him. The Hebrew prophet Jeremiah wrote in strongest terms that we should not notice how pagans worship their gods and "inquire about their gods, saying, 'How did these nations serve their gods? — that I also may do likewise.' You shall not do so to the Lord your God.... Everything that I command you you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to it or take from it" (Deuteronomy 12:30-32, Revised Standard Version). Let us consider some other "Christian" customs that have been adopted from heathenism.
Lent and Easter Sunrise Services
One of the many gods of the pagans who has influenced present-day religious practices was Tammuz. It was believed that he died and was resurrected. He was a counterfeit messiah. To mourn his death a period of weeping with intermittent rejoicing was held annually — a kind of Lenten season. "Among the pagans this Lent seems to have been an indispensable preliminary to the great annual festival in commemoration of the death and resurrection of Tammuz, which was celebrated by alternate weeping and rejoicing" (Hislop's The Two Babylons, p. 105). That's where Lent came from. There certainly are no instructions in the Bible that Christians should observe it. Nor is there any biblical authority for the practice of attending Easter sunrise services either. In fact, the Bible shows just the opposite! God pointed out to Ezekiel some of the customs practiced by the sinful ancient nation of Israel. Ezekiel wrote: "He [God] said also to me, 'You will see still greater abominations which they commit' .... and behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz [a period of "Lent"!]. Then he said to me, 'Have you seen this, O son of man? You will see still greater abominations than these. '... [There] were about twenty-five men, with their backs to the temple of the Lord, and their faces toward the east, worshiping the sun toward the east" (Ezekiel 8:13-16, RSV). What Ezekiel saw was the observance of a Lenten period and a sunrise service. Such heathen practices God called "abominations." He doesn't want us to imitate them.
Hot Cross Buns and the Easter Ham
"The traditional foods of Easter supper are also steeped in ancient legend. The hot cross buns, believed by many to be a purely Christian emblem, were baked with crosses — a pagan symbol — long before it had any Holy Week significance. The first crosses appeared on cakes associated with the worship of the Greek goddess Diana. Let us not forget the pig, which offers its ham as a traditional Easter dish. This animal has always been a symbol of good luck and prosperity among Indo-Europeans" (News World, March 26, 1978). There is nothing Christian about hot cross buns! (See Jeremiah 7:18, where God once angrily complained to Jeremiah because His people were engaged in family activities involving pagan religious cakes.) As far as what God has to say about eating ham on Easter — or on any day, for that matter — refer to Leviticus 11:7 (also see the article that appeared in last month's Plain Truth entitled "Is All Animal Flesh Good Food?").
The Easter Parade
Even the Easter Parade has suspicious origins. "To imitate Nature's emergence in her own gorgeous new attire of delicate green, in ancient times, when Easter was New Year's Day, people cast off their old clothes to start the new year right. Therefore the custom of wearing a new outfit on Easter is a holdover from this time. "The custom of wearing new clothes prevailed also in northern Europe as it was considered discourteous and therefore bad luck to greet the Scandinavian goddess of Spring, or Eastre, in anything but a fresh garb, since the goddess was bestowing one on the earth. Needless to say, the Easter Parade on Fifth Avenue, New York, is the most famous survival of this old custom. "There is an old superstition that wearing three new things on Easter assures good luck throughout the year. It is interesting also, that in early times, the Easter "bonnet" was a wreath of flowers or leaves. The circle or crown expressed the round sun and its course in the heavens which brought the return of spring" (A Treasury of American Superstitions, p. 362). Yes, the Easter Parade and the Easter bonnet also have roots in heathen traditions! They have nothing to do with the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ! God's will regarding religious customs is summed up in one command, "Learn not the way of the heathen" (Jeremiah 10:2)! We should not celebrate Easter with all of its pagan trappings.
Following Jesus' Instructions
"But," some will say, "we use Easter' Sunday to commemorate once every year the resurrection of Jesus. Certainly that is biblical." No, actually it is not! Jesus told his disciples to commemorate His death once a year on the occasion of the Passover — not His resurrection! Christ's resurrection is to be exemplified every day of the year in the lives of Christians (John 14: 19; Galatians 2:20). Too many people have it backwards. They remember Christ's resurrection one day out of the year. And the rest of the year they go about their daily lives unaware that Christ is alive — as though He is still dead. The Apostle Paul told gentile Christians, "For as often as you eat the bread and drink the cup [once a year on the evening of the Passover], you proclaim the Lord's death [not His resurrection] until he comes" (I Corinthians 11:26, RSV). There is no command or example in the Bible to justify the celebration of Easter.* The evening before His crucifixion, Jesus established the New Testament Passover for Christians (Matthew 26:19). He commanded His true followers down through the ages, "This do, in remembrance of me" (I Corinthians 11:25). His instructions were faithfully followed by the early Christian Church, as history proves. Notice what the Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th edition, article "Easter," says: "There is no indication of the observance of the Easter festival in the New Testament or in the writings of the Apostolic Fathers.... The first Christians continued to observe the Jewish festivals, though in a new spirit, as commemorations of events which those festivals had foreshadowed. Thus the Passover, with a new conception added to it, of Christ as the true Paschal Lamb and the firstfruits from the dead, continued to be observed." For a complete account of how Easter was foisted upon the "Christian" world, be sure to request our free booklet The Plain Truth About Easter. You will be amazed. Also, for a full explanation of a Christian's responsibility regarding the Passover, read our free booklet When and How Often Should We Observe the "Lord's Supper"? It is high time to discard the religious traditions and customs of the world and to return to the ways ordained by God!
*Someone is sure to bring up Acts.12:4 in the King James Version of the Bible. Here the translators erroneously used the word Easter. All other serious translations of the Bible, Catholic and Protestant alike, correctly use the word Passover in this verse.