Origins of Easter and paganism.

Daze

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Have you ever asked yourself what the resurrection of Jesus has to do with rabbits and eggs?

It seems rabbits and eggs have long been a part of spring celebrations as symbols of new life.

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In Australian tradition a bunny would deliver chocolate eggs to many houses.
Have you ever wondered how this seemingly bizarre tradition came to be?

As it turns out Easter actually began as a pagan festival celebrating spring in the Northern Hemisphere, long before the advent of Christianity.

"Since pre-historic times, people have celebrated the equinoxes and the solstices as sacred times," University of Sydney Professor Carole Cusack said.

"The spring equinox is a day where the amount of dark and the amount of daylight is exactly identical, so you can tell that you're emerging from winter because the daylight and the dark have come back into balance.

"People mapped their whole life according to the patterns of nature."

Following the advent of Christianity, the Easter period became associated with the resurrection of Christ.
"In the first couple of centuries after Jesus's life, feast days in the new Christian church were attached to old pagan festivals," Professor Cusack said.

"Spring festivals with the theme of new life and relief from the cold of winter became connected explicitly to Jesus having conquered death by being resurrected after the crucifixion."
Easters Changing date

In 325AD the first major church council, the Council of Nicaea, determined that Easter should fall on the Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox.

That is why the date moves and why Easter festivities are often referred to as "moveable feasts".

There's a defined period between March 25 and April 25 on which Easter Sunday must fall, and that's determined by the movement of the planets and the Sun.


Pascha, Easter and the goddess of spring

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In most countries in Europe, the name for Easter is derived from the Jewish festival of Passover.
So in Greek the feast is called Pascha, in Italian Pasqua, in Danish it is Paaske, and in French it is Paques.

But in English-speaking countries, and in Germany, Easter takes its name from a pagan goddess Ostara.
From Anglo-Saxon England who was described in a book by the eighth-century English monk Bede.

Eostre was a goddess of spring or renewal and that's why her feast is attached to the vernal equinox.
In Germany the festival is called Ostern, and the goddess is called Ostara.



Rabbits and eggs as ancient symbols of new life

Many of the pagan customs associated with the celebration of spring eventually became absorbed
within Christianity as symbols of the resurrection of Jesus.

Eggs, as a symbol of new life, became a common people's explanation of the resurrection; after the chill of the winter months, nature was coming to life again.

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During the Middle Ages, people began decorating eggs and eating them as a treat following mass on Easter Sunday after fasting through Lent.
This is actually something that still happens, especially in eastern European countries like Poland.

The custom of decorating hard-boiled eggs or blown eggs is still a very popular folk custom.


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Rabbits and hares are also associated with fertility and were symbols linked to the goddess Eostre.

The first association of the rabbit with Easter was a mention of the "Easter hare" in a book by German professor of medicine Georg Franck von Franckenau published in 1722.

He recalls a folklore that hares would hide the colored eggs that children hunted for, which suggests to us that as early as the 18th century, decorated eggs were hidden in gardens for egg hunts.



As a child i remember my dad taking me and my sister to several egg hunts held by churches in my town.
When belief and paganism are intermingled, how does one separate the two?
 






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