The Origins of Easter

Something that I’ve noticed at certain times of the year, is the tendency for some Pagans to claim that the Christians stole our holidays. This primarily happens around the Christmas season, but it hops out around Easter as well, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to put a little effort into clearing up some misconceptions that might be floating around.

One thing that I like to point out, is that many of the “Pagan” traditions that have eventually become associated with a particular holiday, are generally due to those Pagans who were converted finding ways to keep some of the comforts of their old practices, while still conforming to their new ones as well.

As to the origins of Easter, the approximate dates for it are actually pretty clearly outlined in the Bible, and it was originally celebrated around the same time as the Jewish passover, as that is when the Crucifixion is said to have taken place. In 325 the Council of Nicea decided on a more precise method of calculation, which in essence combined the two primary methods that were currently in practice at that time – calculating it based on moon phases and having a specific set date. From that point forward, the date of Easter would be on a day following the first full moon, after the Spring Equinox, though it took quite a bit longer for the particular day (Sunday) to be solidified across all communities.

What is important to note, is that although there have been references made to Easter being associated with the Goddess Eostre (primarily due to Bede’s work), it is likely that this may have been an error on his part, or at least not something that had any basis in provable fact. While details are rather sketchy on her existence, it is entirely possible that she was simply associated with the dawn, and new beginnings, rather than Spring itself. Also, historically “Eostre-month” was a month long celebration, rather than any one particular day.

I also find it interesting that in almost all other languages, the term for this particular holiday is Pasha/Paschal (in reference to the Jewish Passover) – even the full moon after the equinox is called the Paschal Moon. So it is only in the English language that there is even any association made to the term Eostre.  All of which makes the argument that Easter is an ancient “spring festival” that has been stolen by “teh ebil Xtians”, a less likely version of what really happened.

additional resource – The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain by Ronald Hutton

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