Easter is celebrated by Christians all over the world to honour the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 3 days after his crucifixion on Good Friday. However, it is widely recognised that the celebration of Easter has Pagan roots that go back to way before Christianity even existed.
The word ‘Easter’ is of Saxon origin, meaning Eastra, who was the Goddess of Spring and who is honoured around the time of Passover. The story goes that Eastra was sent to Earth, she noticed that it was cold and dark, and that it was her job to wake it up from its deep winter sleep, and so Easter celebrates the waking up of Earth after winter, and the beginning of Spring.
To this day the celebration of Easter is tied strongly to the beginning and celebration of Spring; it has no fixed date like other holidays such as Christmas, but instead it is a moveable feast that falls on the first Sunday after the full moon following the Spring Equinox.
The name Easter was adopted by the Anglo-Saxons in the 8th Century to recognise the celebration of Jesus’ return. Though the name became synonymous with Christianity, many signs of its pagan roots still appear in the traditional celebrations of the holiday.
Both the rabbit and the egg are widely recognised as the symbol of Easter, and it is a popular tradition for children to take part in Easter egg hunts and be presented with chocolate eggs by the Easter Bunny during the holiday. Again, however, there aren’t modern traditions; both were actually Pagan symbols of fertility. The egg was worshipped by the ancient Babylonians, Egyptians, Norsemen and Scandinavians, and the Norsemen are responsible for starting the tradition of exchanging coloured eggs at the time of the Spring Equinox.
For Christians, the egg symbolises rebirth, and the resurrection of Christ. The custom of giving eggs is tradition for many Christians, and then they are cracked open, the shell represents the empty tomb.
How to Celebrate Easter’s Pagan Roots
- As Easter is a celebration of Spring, why not get outside this weekend and celebrate the natural beauty of nature. Go on a long walk or hike, climb a mountain, or swim in the sea. Take a picnic and enjoy the simplicity and peacefulness of being at one with the earth.
- To honour the theme of rebirth and new beginnings and to honour the earth, why not go into the garden and plant something.
- Paint eggs in bright colours, and give them as gifts to friends and family. If you have young children, you can hide the eggs and lead them on an egg hunt.
- Have a feast in honour of Eastra, and include the traditional Easter delicacies such as hot cross buns, eggs, and of course, chocolate for dessert!