Easter’s origin

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By VICKI BROWN

vbrown@lowcountry.com

Easter commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ three days after His crucifixion, according to the Bible. Many customs dating back to ancient times attached themselves to the word “Easter,” creating customs. 

The name “Easter” comes from an ancient Anglo-Saxon goddess, Eostre, who originally represented the dawn or goddess of spring. In pagan times, an annual spring festival was held in her honor. A similar goddess, Ishtar, in ancient Babylonia and Assyria was important as a mother goddess, goddess of love, and goddess of war as well as fertility. She was often represented with lilies. Both names, Eostre and Ishtar sound similar to our modern Easter.

Eggs are the symbol of spring and a primitive symbol of fertility. Thousands of years ago, the Persians and the Egyptians gave each other decorated hen eggs as a renewal sign. But Christians saw in them a symbol of the tomb from which Christ arose.

As everyone knows, rabbits are notorious for procreating. In ancient days, they were revered during the festival for their fertility. But no one really knows where the idea of the Easter Bunny came from. Many think that the German immigrants from Pennsylvania brought the tradition with them to this country.

The celebration of Easter was not considered a ‘Christian’ festival until the fourth century. Early Christians celebrated the Passover on the 14th day of the first month, and as the calendar changed, the term came to be applied to the anniversary of Christ’s resurrection.

There is no mention of the observance of the Easter in the New Testament. But Christians who had converted from the Jewish faith during the Apostles’ time and beyond continued to observe the Jewish festivals with a different devotion. The Passover, which commemorated the Hebrews being led by Moses out of Egyptian slavery, took on a new meaning with Christ as the true sacrificial Lamb and as the Son of God who makes all things new.

When Christianity first spread across Europe, believers changed many of the older rites and ceremonies, adapting them to fit with the life and teaching of Jesus.

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