Spring. The Easter Bunny. Stores filled with Peeps, Easter eggs, Easter grass, and more. Talk of the cross, Passion week, the resurrection and life found in Christ. Much like Christmas, Easter has become a holiday that has combined both pagan and Christian traditions to make what we know it to be today. How did Easter become this crazy hodgepodge of beliefs and traditions? And, what can this hodgepodge mean for us today? Let’s take a closer look.
History of Easter
Originally Easter was called, Pascha, which comes from the Greek word pesach, which is Hebrew for Passover. Isn’t that fitting since the crucifixion and resurrection took place during the Hebrew Passover? Kind of neat. So you could basically say that Easter means the Christian Passover Festival–the day Jesus’ blood allowed the death angel to pass over us should we allow Him to place His blood on the doorposts of our hearts.
Some have said that Easter stemmed from a Germanic pagan festival, but more research has proved that the celebration of Easter was around loooooong before such a Germanic pagan festival ever began to take place. While English and Germans came to call the Christian Passover Festival by a pagan calendar month, they were doing so because Pascha took place during their Eosturmonath. Thus, they called the holiday Easter since it better fit their language than Pascha. However, the holiday of Pascha dates all the back to the second century, with the focus being to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and never anything else.
The Easter Bunny and His Eggs
Probably one of the biggest symbols of our modern Easter is the fictitious Easter Bunny. How in the world did the Easter bunny enter the celebration of Christ’s resurrection? The earliest known ties of the rabbit to Easter stem back to the early 1700s in America when German immigrants used to tell their children about an Osterhase that would lay colored eggs and bonnets in the Spring.
The rabbit and eggs had long been known as symbola of Spring, rebirth, and fertility, especially in pagan cultures. As different cultures began to collide, especially in America, traditions meshed together to create the current holiday we now celebrate.
Some have chosen to keep both pagan and religious symbols of Easter in their holiday traditions. Some have avoided using rabbits and eggs in their celebrations altogether because of the pagan connections. And some, sadly, have abandoned the Christian Passover focus altogether, and have opted to just use the holiday as a day to celebrate Spring time and take part in what has become a huge consumer market.
What Easter Means to Us
So what does this modern day Easter mean to us? As I sit here thinking about the meaning of Easter for us today, I can’t help but think about the Bible verse that says, Thus, because you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I am about to vomit you out of my mouth! (Revelation 3:16).
In America, or much of the world for that matter, we have begun combining cultural traditions and have become lukewarm in our beliefs and the sharing of our beliefs with our children. It is evident in our consumer view of Easter, Christmas, and other religious holidays as well as our regular church attendance which is quickly declining in America to less than 17% of the current population.
Let me be more blunt. Celebrating a holiday, be it Easter or Christmas or some other holiday, is just that–a holiday. A break from the regular hub-drum of the day-to-day. However, it’s the day-to-day where holidays get their real meaning. Attending church only on Easter and Christmas Sunday does not earn you “spiritual points” or prove to your offspring that you are a follower of Christ. A true Easter celebration comes from an overflowing love and joy for your Savior that you have developed through a personal relationship with Him day in and day out. It’s just one highlight to your Christian walk. It is NOT the defining factor of your Christian walk.
What should Easter mean to you? I hope it means more than Easter egg hunts and chocolate Easter bunnies. I hope it means more than a reason to dress up and go to church on a Sunday. I hope it is the reason you have hope at all. And I hope it is just another opportunity for you to share with your children and grandchildren why you believe and live out your belief in Jesus as you do. THAT is what Easter should mean to us.
How will we be celebrating Easter this year? I’d be lying if I said we abandoned Easter egg hunts and rabbits altogether. After all, we are a rabbit loving family. However, we make a very specific point to share with our children WHY we are celebrating Christ’s resurrection, and that it is because of HIS miraculous and loving grace that we are celebrating Easter. Resurrection eggs and resurrection rolls remain a big part of our celebrations. And, we have even made a resurrection garden and done an Easter Countdown a time or two. However, more important than that, we use the time of celebration to remind them of the Words of Jesus we have already been instilling upon their hearts. Easter is just the icing on the cake.
“And you shall put these, my words, on your heart and on your inner self, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be as an emblem between your eyes. And you shall teach them to your children by talking about them when you sit in your house and when you travel on the road and when you lie down and when you get up. (Deuteronomy 11:18–19)