For many people of the Christian faith Easter is the most important holiday of the year. It signifies the end of Lent, new beginnings, and the resurrection of Christ. But what do we really know about Easter? Where did the name Easter come from? Why not call it Resurrection Sunday? Why is it on a Sunday?
Easter used to follow the end of Passover by two days regardless of which day of the week it fell on. That means one year it might be Easter Monday, and the next, Easter Thursday. However, everyone wasn’t pleased with this. It was determined at The Council of Nicea that Easter would always fall on a Sunday, the day Christ rose, and always after the first full moon following the spring equinox.
It is believed that the name Easter was drawn from the pagan god Eostre (pronounced ee-ster). Every spring the pagans would celebrate this deity with a festival. Eostre was the pagan goddess of spring and fertility and such did the festival and season follow.
Rabbits came about through symbolism. While Peter Rabbit had not yet become a thought, during that time period rabbits were the symbol of fertility and new life, hence the derivation of the Easter Bunny.
In early Christianity the Eostre festival occurred around the same time as the Jewish Passover. In efforts to draw more pagans into Christianity church officials decided to embrace some of pagan customs. Neither the rabbit symbolism, not the name were shunned.
The eggs came about around the thirteenth century. In early Christianity the eggs symbolized fertility and renewal. The yolk was said to represent Christ’s emergence from the tomb. Eggs were painted red to represent the blood Christ shed on the cross and thus we have the beginning of the painting eggs tradition. It is likely too that the popularity of eggs was due to their absence during lent. For centuries the church put out a banned foods list during lent, on which, one of the banned items was the egg.
Whether it’s being called Resurrection Sunday or Easter Sunday, this is undoubtedly a favorite time of the year. The blending of traditions over thousands of years has created an atmosphere both Christians and non-believers alike can enjoy. The early church’s goal was to increase the number of believers, and whether you paint your eggs red, rainbow, or don’t paint them at all; whether you attend sunrise service on Easter Sunday, or Easter Sunday is the only service you attend all year, you are undeniably being touched by the kingdom of God.