Easter around the world
Christians celebrate Easter around the world to commemorate Christ’s resurrection from the dead. As one of the most holy days in the Christian calendar, it may be surprising to learn how many of the traditions associated with Easter in our modern observances hail back to a more ancient pagan origin.
The Name: The name of the holiday originates from a goddess. Known as Ostara in German, and Eastre in Saxon, she was the goddess of spring, dawn and also fertility.
The Season: Easter is associated with the advent of spring in the Northern hemisphere. Days become longer and temperature begins to rise, the earth itself is “reborn.”
The Goddesses: As well as Eastre/Ostara, there are other ancient goddesses associated with the holiday. Ishtar is a goddess of the ancient Babylon. She symboliyzed war, reproduction and romance. The Sumerians called her Inanna; a goddess who descended into the underworld. The story of her struggles and subsequent resurrection were first recorded as early as 2,100 B.C.E.
The Dawn: The importance of dawn or the early morning are associated the Goddess Eastre/Ostara. Along with the goddess connection, the resurrection is associated with the dawn. In the Bible, Matthew 28:1 and Mark 16:2 refer to the dawn or early morning as the time when the women arrived at the tomb and learned of Christ’s resurrection.
The Bunny and the Eggs: Eggs are an ancient symbol of fertility and were a featured part of the spring festival celebrating the Goddess Ostara. An important part of the festival was to show gratitude to Ostara, and traditionally eggs, newborn chicks, and bunnies were appropriate offerings.
The Candy: Many children wake up Easter morning to find a basket full of candy Easter eggs, bunnies, chicken of all colors made of marshmallow, and jellybeans. All these trappings of the holiday have a basis in ancient pagan roots of the past. Eggs stood for fertility, chicken for new growth, the bunnies for prosperity and fecundity. The jellybeans are representations of seeds and the fertility they invoke.
Easter essentially represents the awakening of the earth. Grass grows (yup, that’s what that green stuff the candy rests on in many Easter baskets represents), and life begins anew. In a beautiful dance of belief and celebration, Easter blends those rooted in the pagan past with those of Christianity in a beautiful dance of spiritual harmony.
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