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Two faces of Easter

Posted by: tdt -

By Judi Wiegman

Sometimes it is interesting to go “digging” to find out the origin of events and special days.  I was not overly happy when I began to search out the origin of a day that seems so innocent; so enjoyable.

As it turns out, the secular side of Easter has its roots in pagan worship. It was associated with the pagan goddess Eastre.  It was first celebrated in Germany in the 1600’s and was associated with a “hare.”  The celebration was connected with a spring festival having to do with fertility lore. 

Later, the hare was dropped from the celebration and replaced with the Easter bunny. Children would make a nest in the barn and wait for Easter morning to see if their nest had been filled with colorful eggs.  This tradition was carried by the Germans to the Pennsylvania Dutch settlement in the 1700’s and thus began the celebration by American children.  They would use their hats and bonnets to make the nest for the eggs.

Eggs, bunnies, parades, and ham for dinner have nothing to do with the Christian celebration of Easter.  In fact, many churches wanting to turn away from the traditional are calling Easter Sunday by a new name, Resurrection Sunday.

The Christian root of Easter revolves around the events that led up to the resurrection of Jesus from the grave. Throughout the Bible, He is referred to as the sacrificial lamb.  The entire premise for Christianity is the belief that Jesus was born of a virgin, died on the cross for the sin of the world, rose again and is coming to claim his children.  More people attend Easter Sunday services than any other Sunday throughout the year. 

This celebrated week before His resurrection is the holiest week in Christian worship.  The holiday is celebrated by many events.  The Catholic Church begins its celebration six weeks prior to Easter with the beginning of lent on Ash Wednesday.  Other churches have communion services, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services.  All are times of reflection and meditation surrounding the events of Christ’s death and resurrection.

Over the years countless hymns have been written to reflect the meaning of Easter.  Most famous among them are, “The Old Rugged Cross,” “In the Garden,” “At Calvary,” and “He Lives.” 

However you choose to celebrate Easter this Sunday, take this opportunity to share this day with someone you love.  Attending church, gathering around a table, sharing traditions and family stories somehow overshadows the long forgotten pagan side of years gone by.  Happy Easter!