By : Nikki Savage
Easter is early this year. I used to wonder why Easter would change every year. Wouldn’t an anniversary of an event be celebrated on or around the actual date? And where did the eggs and bunny come from? It didn’t really make sense when I listened to the story of Jesus rising at church dressed in the best of my Sunday best.
It was sometime in my early teenage years that I found my answer. And I must say it altered the way I look at religious holidays. I found that most of what everyone associated with Easter actually had their beginnings in Pagan traditions. It was a tough business converting lifelong, god and goddess fearing folk rooted in their indigenous beliefs over into Christianity. They were used to festivals and feasts that followed the sun and the moon and celebrated the changing light of each season. Their lives were linked to the land and their worship was no different. But this new religion didn’t have anything to do with the Earth or the seasons. It was unfathomable.
So compromises were made. The major festivals the pagans celebrated to mark the passing of the seasons were pulled into the Christian fold. I imagine the old leaders of the church and the leaders of the pagan communities sitting at a table hashing out the details for the new blended celebrations. I envision the conversation going something like this: Jesus must be present in the celebrations and will be central and since spring is when rebirth and renewal are celebrated, it will be celebrated near the spring equinox. Okay? Sunday is the holy day so we will celebrate on Sunday but it will be a Sunday following the first full moon following the vernal equinox. So a Christian holiday on Pagan time. And hey, we will make sure the name and some of the traditions focus more on the natural rhythms of Earth, but Jesus is the main man. How’s that work for everyone?
The name of the holiday is Easter, is said to be derived from Eostre, a Germanic goddess of spring and fertility. Her animal association was the rabbit and her symbol was an egg, both strong representations of spring and fertility. And so we have Eostre’s bunny and Eostre’s eggs, painted to mimic the colors that are just beginning to peek through winter’s cloak, purples of crocus, pinks of hyacinth, and yellow daffodils. And while they have nothing to do with Jesus and his crucifixion that I can find, we still dye eggs and hide them for a hunt to celebrate his rising as per the compromise I suppose.
I’m not saying the resurrection is untrue or speaking out against Christianity at all. I am only connecting some dots of our Easter traditions that never really lined up with the story I heard during every Easter service. I have no lines to connect the dots on the candy part other than a way to gorge after the dietary restrictions of Lent. That is purely a guess.
I will still honor the traditions that welcome back the lighter half of the year and celebrate the return of the Sun and the Son. The blend of the old ways into the new are the only ways I have ever known. I don’t discredit Christianity for finding the common ground to stand to worship in community or the pagan folk for accepting JC into the fold. Everything evolves, traditions in living religions should be no different.
I will still hide some eggs for kids to find, set out a basket for a giant rabbit fill and offer a prayer of thanks for the sacrifices that were made to allow for new life to continue. That is message I find at the heart of all the Easter traditions. Life continues even after the darkest times. And I will pop a peep in my mouth and savor its sweetness as I hold gratitude in my heart for all the signs I see that show me over and over how life prevails. For truly, it does.
Whether you celebrate Easter, Passover, Ostara or are just glad to see Spring again, I hope you enjoy the beginnings and blessings this season has to offer. If you know of other traditions or have created new ones of your own magical blend, please feel free to share below.
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