The Differences in Christian and Pagan Easter Celebrations

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Christians celebrate Easter Sunday, commemorating the day Jesus Christ rose from the dead after his crucifixion. But many of the traditions the world celebrates on Easter come from pagan practices. Here are the differences.

Pagan Easter traditions

Similar to the way pagan traditions crept into Christmas, a Christian celebration commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, pagan elements have also crept into Easter, the celebration of Christ’s victory over death.

The name Easter

The name for the holiday, “Easter,” is not a name that derives from Christianity. It comes from the word Eostre, a Saxon word and the name of a goddess in whom sacrifices were offered around the time of Passover, Christianity reports.

The commercialization of Easter began in the 18th and 19th centuries when the Easter Bunny and eggs became part of the tradition. Cadbury began making chocolate eggs and bunnies during the late 1800s and has continued ever since.

Easter bunnies

The holiday also falls around the spring equinox, a time when plants bloom and animals reproduce. Rabbits and hares are ancient symbols of fertility and life. According to History, the German tradition of an Easter hare, known as the Osterhase, delivering eggs to good children took hold in the 17th century.

Easter eggs

Like rabbits, eggs have been symbols of new life infertility and various cultures going back to ancient times. Thus, Christians adapted the egg to represent Jesus’ resurrection, the eggshell symbolizing the tomb, and the cracking as representative of Jesus emerging to life and conquering death.

Christian Easter traditions

The early church did not call the holiday Easter. Instead, it was called Pascha (Aramaic, Greek, Latin) or Resurrection Sunday. It’s also linked to the Jewish Passover or Pesach in Hebrew. Over the centuries, the name Easter was adopted by Christians and focused on referencing Christ’s death and rebirth. However, with the holiday’s commercialization, most young people today don’t necessarily connect the holiday with Jesus Christ or are even aware of its connection.

The seven days before resurrection Sunday is referred to as holy week. It begins with Palm Sunday a week before, which marks Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem when he rode into the town on a donkey. Jesus was greeted by a large crowd holding the branches of palm trees (John 12: 12-13). This event is known as the triumphal entry and references the prophecy of the Jewish Messiah in Zechariah 9:9 and foretold in John 12:14-15.

Easter concerns Jesus Christ’s supernatural resurrection from the dead, which occurred three days after his crucifixion and physical death on Friday.

Some religious denominations, including Catholics, Methodists, Lutherans, and others, celebrate these three days like Good Friday, and Holy Saturday.

Good Friday commemorates Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, his last supper with the disciples in the crucifixion. Many denominations celebrate with fasting and church services.

Holy Saturday is observed by Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, and others, commemorating Jesus’ time in the tomb.

The Catholic Church celebrates the tradition of Ash Wednesday, which is the start of 40 days of penance and fasting, called Lent, which leads up to Easter.

Christian Easter eggs

The tradition of coloring Easter eggs comes from the Catholic 40 days of Lent. As eggs were forbidden during Lent, people decorated eggs to enjoy them until they could consume them when fasting was over during Easter celebrations.