The Origins of Easter

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Easter is one of the few bigger holidays to “fall” on a Sunday rather than have a set annual date like Chrismtas or Valentine’s Day. This year, Easter will be celebrated on April 4. Chances are, your plan for Easter is to wake up, look for some eggs, open your baskets and eat great chocolate. But why do we do the things we do on Easter; and why is it such a big holiday with weird traditions?

Easter actually started thousands of years ago as a month-long pagan celebration for the start of Spring. The name Easter actually came from the Germanic goddess of dawn, Eostre, who was said to bring warmth and flowers back to life during the spring equinox. Her symbol is depicted to be a rabbit, or hare, an animal associated with springtime and represents fruitfulness and fertility (or renewal, much like a new season). As a thank you for bringing back the warmth and allowing agriculture to resume, the pagans threw a month-long festival full of flowers and fun events. 

It’s strange to think about the odd traditions we have today, such as egg hunting, and how they even came to be. Well, some of the things we do to celebrate Easter make a little more sense when you consider the almost ancient origins, like the eggs. Eostre, who represented fertility, was celebrated by trading eggs with other people to celebrate the “birth” of spring. 

After 300 AD, Christianity decided to convert the pagan Easter festival into one day and turn it into a religious holiday. It’s this reason the Christians decided to adapt many of the pagan rituals and add new meaning to them. For example, the month leading up to Easter day is not a celebration for Christianity, but instead a period of sacrifice that represents the 40 days of fasting Jesus went through to banish the devil in the Bible. 

One of the traditions we have on Easter that the Christians changed is that of egg-related fun. Pagans used to decorate and trade eggs as a sign that crops would be extra fertile that season; Christianity uses eggs to represent the rebirth of Jesus. Eggs are also typically decorated early and saved to eat on Easter, meant to represent fasting. No matter what your beliefs, many traditions and holidays are borrowed and adapted, so there is much to choose from to celebrate! Even if you decide not to celebrate, be appreciative of the wide selection of delicious sweets available during this time!