Monday, March 12, 2012

THE ORIGIN OF THE TERM EASTER


Hello My Friend and Welcome.

THE DANGERS OF A LITTLE BIT OF KNOWLEDGE
This is as good a time as any to deal with the overall concept of Easter. As we found in our December study on All Things Christmas, there are many half-truths and misconceptions surrounding the traditions and practices of the Church. People perpetuate these falsehoods either out of ignorance or because it discredits the Church and, by discrediting the Church, they gain credibility.  

In the case of Christmas, it was the false fact that Christmas was placed on December 25th because that date corresponded with pagan solstice feasts. We disproved that in our post Why Dose Christmas Come on December 25th? If you missed the post, you can find it HERE. 

Easter, too, we are told is a pagan holiday. As Easter approaches and you’ll hear this refrain repeated over and over. For the sake of charity, we’ll assume that the people saying this are simply misinformed.  

REFUTTING THE PAGAN MYTH
First of all, while we cannot be certain when Jesus of Nazareth was born, we know with certainty when he died. Easter is known as The Pascha everywhere except in the English speaking world. Pascha is Greek for Passover…the day on which Jesus was crucified. But didn’t pagans have Spring festivals? Of course they did. Many small towns have a Fall Harvest Festival…an Apple Fest, a Pumpkin Show, etc. Are these festivals a ritualistic way of paying homage to the Earth Goddess, or simply an opportunity for family fun and food from traveling food booths? 

So where did the connection of Easter and paganism come from? It began with the observations of an 8th Century Christian writer. Again, like the Christmas speculation, a passing comment took on a life of its own. In this case, the Venerable Bede said that the word Easter was derived from the name of the pagan goddess Eostre, whose name was in turn derived from the Norse word for Spring, Eastre. So Easter comes from Spring, which seems appropriate enouh. Note, he was talking about the word Easter, not the Easter practices.  

But what about those practices? Those boiled eggs in a basket of grass, etc? Doesn't that perpetuate some pagan equinox worship service? Let’s take a closer look. Circadian rhythms are biological processes that are dependent upon day length. Modern egg producers stimulate the hen’s laying cycle by extending the perceived day length with artificial light. People living in the First Century didn’t have this luxury; they had to depend upon the natural cycle of solstices and equinoxes. Consequently, as the days grew longer with the coming of Spring, their hens were stimulated to begin laying. Also, during the 40-day period of fasting preceding Easter, the Early Christians did without meats, fats and eggs.  

What could be more opportune? Just as we move into Spring and the celebration of the Resurrection, the hens begin to produce eggs again. Eggs, of course, are ideal representations of a resurrection of sorts when they hatch and of the new life the Early Christians found in Christ. Interestingly, the Early Christians dyed boiled eggs red —for the saving blood of Jesus Christ. They presented them to their children on Easter morning as a reminder of the Paschal mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection. Easter morning, of course, was also the first day that eggs could be eaten again.  

This year when you boil and color eggs with your children or grandchildren, tell them the story of the Early Christians.  Remind them that, like those children of earlier times, they are participating in a holy tradition. Remind them also that those Early Christian children never had chocolate. 

Next time we will examine the prophecies surrounding the Messiah and his death and resurrection. 

Until then, we wish you Peace and Blessings. 

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1 comment:

Terrie said...

I Love your posts and all the research you've done to present a balanced view. Seems we get caught up in traditions without understanding where they began. I had understood that the colored eggs were a worship of the fertility goddess ( name escapes me ) However, you've presented a worthy case for the new life in Christ. Thanks Edward!