You may be surprised by the real history of Easter and you may discover what you thought you knew about the holiday is not necessarily correct. While Easter is primarily a holiday celebrated by Christians for its important religious connotations, the holiday is actually rooted in long revered pagan practices. In fact, some of the traditions practiced on this particular holiday were at one time also practiced by pagans around the world.
History Of Easter: Ancient Pagan Roots
The history of Easter reveals ancient pagan roots; this holiday was not always a Christian-based holiday. It is believed that the term Easter is literally derived from the term Eostre, the name of a Teutonic feminine deity. The latter goddess is a fertility goddess, a goddess of the spring, and the hare is sacred to her. Others believe that the word Easter is derived from hebdomada alba, a Latin term meaning white week. The latter reference is believed to be associated with the act of putting on white attire when being baptized and served as a reference for the week that Easter occurs in as well.
The association of Easter practices with the pagan goddess Eostre makes clear some of the traditions that are carried out today. The goddess Eostre was honored toward the end of the month of March, right around the time of Spring Equinox. Jakob Grimm, the author of “Deutsche Mythologie,” explains that a goddess similar to Eostre was at one time mentioned by the Venerable Bede. Dr. Jonathan Young, a well-known folklorist, further asserts the mythic past associated with the holiday; the month of April was once identified as Ostaramoanoth or Eostremonat; this times the month of April immediately after Spring Equinox. Eostre is also sometimes identified as Ostara, a word rooted in the term “east,” which literally means “dawn.” Celebrations honoring Ostara or Eostre are ancient, and the holiday came to represent the cycle of life, death, and rebirth.
Since the holiday of Easter is about renewal and new beginnings, one should not be surprised to see people wearing brand new attire at Easter parades; this is done to reflect the notion of doing away with what is old and bringing in all that is new and fresh. Eggs are symbols of fertility, of birth, and of renewal too, and this could be why many people still paint eggs in lovely pastel colors every year. Meanwhile, the Easter Bunny may be rooted in the ancient hares held sacred to the great goddess Eostre or Ostara.
History Of Easter: Christianized Traditions
Interestingly, the time when Christianity transmogrified ancient Eostre celebrations into Easter is a bit ambiguous; there is no note of Easter traditions or practices presented in the New Testament of the English Standard Version of the bible. At one time, the resurrection of Jesus Christ was celebrated on every Sabbath day or Sunday. Sometime circa the second century BCE, Christians then began celebrating a single day that came to represent the time that Christ was resurrected and ascended into Heaven.
Today, Easter is not only a single day of observance, but it also includes Lent, a forty-day period prior to Easter and a time for penance. Lent is the time that comes to represent the forty days Jesus ended up in the wilderness just before beginning his teaching ministry. Mardi Gras is the day preceding Lent and it is a time for a final celebration before giving up one or more temptations during Lent; this is done in an effort to replicate the actions of Christ who defied temptations made by Satan while he roamed the wilderness. The entire week before Easter is considered holy. It is believed that Christ was crucified on a Friday; hence the reasoning for Good Friday: a day named after the fact that it is through Christ’s death that one achieves salvation. Saturday is also sacred and is referred to as Holy Saturday. The latter day is celebrated because it is believed that immediately after the crucifixion Christ descended into Hell to release all those stuck in Purgatory. Sunday is Easter and is the holy day honored because it is the day that Christ rises from the tomb and joins his Father in Heaven: this time is commonly referred to as the ascension. For more details visit http://www.religionfacts.com/christianity/holidays/easter.htm.
More On The History Of Easter And Early Traditions
Easter’s dating has been and remains highly debated. Both Protestants and Catholics celebrate the holiday on the first full moon following Spring Equinox on a Sunday. Meanwhile, the Orthodox, Russian, and Greek churches celebrate Orthodox Easter that falls on a day that can be anywhere from five weeks apart from the dating of the holiday set by Protestants and Catholics. Divergent beliefs have made the dating of the holiday controversial and there has been no resolution achieved in terms of the official dating of the Easter holiday.
Different Christian traditions would celebrate the holiday using different rites. During the Middle Ages, Christians in Anglican, Lutheran, and Roman Catholic churches often celebrate the holiday with a vigil. The vigil will involve the act of blessing a new fire, paschal candle lighting, lessons on the prophecies, a blessing of the font, and any baptisms that needed to be performed. On Easter, an elaborate Mass was also held. Meanwhile, in Protestant churches Christians would partake of the Eucharist, perform baptism ceremonies, sing songs, and read special hymns, and sometimes services were offered at sunrise in order to honor the moment when Mary Magdalene discovered that Jesus’ tomb was empty.
Those Christians that worshipped in Orthodox churches would hold a procession, a vigil, and would reenact the search for the body of Christ. The church remained dark until the moment during the reenactment someone exclaimed that Christ has risen; then the Church would be lit up with candles or lamps: the act symbolized the glory of the resurrection of Jesus. Following the ceremony, all would partake of the Eucharist. For more details visit http://www.history.com/topics/history-of-easter.