“Oh no! Easter is a pagan holiday!”

by K.W. Leslie, 27 March 2024

Whenever Easter approaches, you might run into Evangelicals who pointedly refer to the day as “Resurrection Sunday.” If not, don’t be surprised when you bump into ’em. And don’t be surprised when they comment, “Resurrection Sunday—not ‘Easter.’ I don’t do Easter. Easter is a pagan holiday.”

It is? According to these guys, it is. About a decade ago there was a meme claiming Easter was named for the Babylonian goddess Ishtar. (The name sounds so similar!) But more often you’re gonna hear the story of some northern European goddess of the spring named Eostre, and during the spring equinox, ancient pagans would worship her with symbols which represent fertility, like rabbits and eggs. And that’s where our secular Easter traditions came from: From pagans.

Okay. Those of us who know Christian history, know Jesus died the day before Passover in the year 33. The first Passover took place at some point in the 15th century BC, on 14 Nisan of whatever year that was. Nisan is the first month of spring, and Hebrew months begin at the new moon, so on the 14th the moon will be full. Christians swiped that holiday. Most of us still call it Passover! (Or some variant of Πάσχα/Páscha, the Greek word for Passover; only northern European languages call it something like Easter.)

So no, we didn’t adopt some pagan European equinox celebration. We swiped a Hebrew holiday which happens to take place the same time of year. And when European paganism was wiped out once European kings turned to Jesus, and ordered their subjects to turn to him too, the Europeans were left with all these unattached customs… with no god to connect ’em to anymore, because all they knew was Jesus.

Is that a problem? Only if people are still worshiping Eostre. But no one’s worshiping Eostre. When Europeans ditched that religion, they stopped worshiping her so hard, today’s historians know next to nothing about her! Europeans abandoned the Eostre legends, the Eostre worship practices, everything. It didn’t even go underground, or get collected in books about bygone mythology, like the stories we still have about Wotan and Thor and Baldr. Eostre’s gone. So gone, some historians doubt she even existed.

It’s exactly the sort of victory over pagan idolatry Christians should be sharing, celebrating, and rejoicing over. Instead we have paranoid Christians who wanna bring Eostre back, solely for the purpose of telling one another we need to hate and fear her. You realize there are real evils in the world we oughta fight, not ridiculous distractions. But nope, we have people trying to play connect-the-dots with other pagan gods, hoping to find some kind of devilish conspiracy theory. Hoping to find something to fear. Hoping to find something with which they can spread fear. Which says all kinds of devilish things about them.

Hence their dire warnings: “Watch out for these secular Easter traditions! If you do ’em, you might unintentionally worship Eostre. And God will be very, very angry.” And smite you somehow. Or smite the whole country. Supposedly he’s petty like that.

Okay. Any depiction of God which doesn’t describe him as gracious, which claims he’s eagerly planning to punish his kids for our unwitting errors, clearly hasn’t been paying any attention to the way Jesus describes his loving Father. ’Cause God does grace. Whereas these fearful Christians, and the churches where they get or spread their ridiculous rubbish, do not. It’s why they’re so fearful.

Don’t mimic such godless, fruitless people. Follow the Spirit. And use your head!

What’s biblical and what’s not.

Are there pagan customs mixed up with Easter? Of course there are. Easter baskets and Easter candy are the most obvious and ubiquitous of ’em. Convincing everyone they have to give their kids an Easter basket or they’re bad parents, has proven a great way for merchants to make an awful lot of money this time of year. And of course none of this custom comes from bible.

GENEROSITY is most definitely biblical, and oughta be a regular practice of fruitful Christians. So giving gifts on Easter, same as any other holiday, oughta be encouraged.

THE WORD EASTER is actually in the bible! Seriously. Πάσχα/Paskha appears 29 times in the New Testament. Properly it means Passover, but the King James Version mistakenly translated it Easter once. Ac 12.4 ’Cause like I said, Easter is the Christian Passover.

EGGS aren’t mandated in the bible, but the custom actually comes from Passover. Dying them red was invented by Christians, not pagans. Decorating the heck out of them was invented by Russian Christians—again, not pagans. Hiding and finding them was a Jewish practice, later borrowed by Martin Luther to remind his congregation of when Jesus’s women disciples found he had risen.

BUNNIES do actually come from pagan equinox festivals. Hares and rabbits are mighty fertile creatures; a little too much so, if you’ve been trying to keep them out of your vegetable garden. A bunny that delivers gifts?—that’s based on the German folk custom of the Osterhase, the Easter hare who gives eggs to good kids, exactly like St. Nicholas. And of course people who love a corny story have spread that one.

CHOCOLATE doesn’t come from bible, but chocolate is awesome and should be part of every holiday. Often is! Although I would hope your chocolatier doesn’t use slave labor to get their cocoa beans. (If you don’t know anything about this, learn.)

EASTER HAM isn’t a pagan custom, but one created by Spanish Christians who wanted to antagonize Jews and Muslims by encouraging their nation to eat pork for Easter. It exposed anyone who was still practicing kosher and halal laws, and enabled Spaniards to persecute them. So this custom actually does originate from evil behavior. But of course most Christians have forgotten all about this, and the antisemites among us really don’t give a rip.

So y’notice, other than remembering Jesus’s resurrection, there are no Easter traditions mandated in the bible. They’re all voluntary and customary, and Christians are free to practice or ignore them if we please. If their pagan origins bug you, that’s fine; don’t do ’em! But at the same time, remember Christians have freedom in Christ to celebrate the holiday as we please, same as every holiday. Ro 14

As for sharing and spreading needless, baseless fear: Stop it. And rebuke any fellow Christians you catch doing it. Stop helping the devil demoralize God’s kids.