What is the TRUE
origin of Easter?
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What is the origin of the Easter Sunday holiday? Let us first look at a few facts about Easter. Although considered a religious-based holiday, secular businesses have a stake in promoting its continuation and observance. Here are some fast facts about the celebration*:
Internet shoppers in 2011 spent an average of $225.43 on candy, clothing, and other related goods. This exceeds the $131.04 average adults spent on goods in typical brick-and-mortar stores.
The total amount spent on holiday-related goods will reach $14.6 billion in 2011.
Easter is the second biggest candy-eating holiday of the year for Americans. Those in the U.S. will consume 7 billion pounds (3,175,146,590 kilograms) of candy in 2011. The most popular non-chocolate holiday related candy in the United States is Marshmallow Peeps.
- It is the fifth most popular holiday for sending holiday-related cards, with 57 million of them exchanged annually in the U.S.
- The most popular chocolate egg worldwide is Cadbury's Creme Egg.
Americans consume 16 BILLION jellybeans during the holiday.
The most famous decorated eggs are those designed by Peter Fabergé. In 2007, a rare enamel-and-gold Fabergé egg sold at auction for $18.5 million.
The history of how we got Easter is the history of how and why Christianity changed its foundational first century A.D. beliefs and practices to something entirely different. The early church abandoned its annual observance of the Christian Passover, instituted by Jesus himself to commemorate his death, and adopted a celebration of his resurrection known as Easter Sunday.
Briefly, the introduction of Easter Sunday first began in Palestine after Roman Emperor Hadrian ruthlessly crushed a Jewish rebellion known as the Barkokeba revolt (132-135 A.D.). After his victory Hadrian rebuilt the ruins of Jerusalem and expelled from it Jews and Jewish-Christians. He also enforced a policy prohibiting the practice of anything that resembled the Jewish religion (e.g. the keeping of a Christian Passover, Sabbath on Saturday, etc.). Jerusalem's Jewish-Christian bishops and members were replaced, as Eusebius tells us, with Gentile members and leaders:
"The Church there was now composed of Gentiles, the first one to assume the government of it after the bishops of the circumcision was Marcus." (Eusebius: The Church History 4,6,4; Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, second series, vol. 1, page 178)
The new leaders of the church changed the traditional date of the Christian Passover (Nisan 14) to SUNDAY in order to separate and distance themselves from Jews and Jewish-Christians. Soon, many Gentile-Christian churches, including the church at Rome, adopted keeping Passover on a Sunday.
As the influence of Jewish Christians diminished in the church, the power of Gentile Christians increased. As they gained control of the church, the Gentile Christians began to replace the Biblical symbols and ceremonies of Passover with pagan symbols and myths. Passover became "Easter," which derives from Eastre, Eostre, Eostra, and Ostara.
Jesus replaced by a bunny
The influence of non-Christian religious practices on the church also brought the replacement of the Passover symbolism of the lamb with that of the hare. The Easter hare was once a bird that the goddess Eostre changed into a four-footed creature. The hare, or rabbit, became a symbol of fertility, presumably because rabbits are notably prolific. The hare laid eggs, which became the symbol of the abundant new life of spring. Thus, the Easter egg is the production not of some mystical bird but of a rabbit or hare.
The origin of the Easter egg is traced back to the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Babylon, Phoenicia, and Greece, where the universe is said to have been born from a mighty world egg:
"The ancient peoples of Egypt, Persia, Greece, Rome, and China exchanged eggs at their spring fertility festivals. In Babylonia, eggs were presented to the goddess of fertility, Astarte (Eostre)." (Passover: Before Messiah and After, Donna and Mal Broadhurst, page 156)
| || | 1903 Peter the Great Fabergé Egg
made for the last Tsar of Russia.
Egg from a White House egg roll | || |
Christians adopted eggs for their Easter celebration because the egg was a popular pagan symbol of death and life. It was a symbol of death because the shell is like a tomb that imprisons the life-germ inside. It was a symbol of life insofar as it contains the source of a new creature.
There are innumerable European folk customs connected with Easter eggs. Painted eggs had symbols such as Roman crosses and swastikas. Egg hunting in gardens was a favorite holiday game for children. The advent of the industrial era brought eggs made of chocolate and sugar, wrapped in tin foil, or even trimmed with real gold and jewels.
On the first Monday after Easter Sunday, the United States White House sponsors an Easter egg roll event. Begun in 1878 A.D., it occurs each year on the White House lawn. The Egg Roll itself is a race, where children push an egg through the grass with a long-handled spoon.
Candy is a relatively recent tradition. First made in Europe in the early 1800s, chocolate eggs are the most popular candy.
The Easter Basket tradition has its roots in German folklore. Germans believed a white hare would leave brightly colored eggs for all good children on Easter morning. German settlers brought the tradition to the United States in the 18th century.
Easter Bonnets are a throwback to the days when the people denied themselves the pleasure of wearing fine clothes for the duration of Lent.
Jellybeans did not become an Easter tradition until the 1930s. They were probably first made in America by Boston candy maker William Schrafft, who ran advertisements urging people to send jellybeans to soldiers fighting in the American Civil War (1861-1865 A.D.). The favorite jellybean flavors of children are cherry, strawberry, and grape.
The twists of a pretzel resemble arms crossed in prayer.
Does it MATTER?
Most of the Internet sites that offer historical information about Easter and its symbols freely admit to their non-Christian (pagan) roots. Many who keep it understand that at least some of the holiday's trappings (eggs, rabbits, baskets, etc.) have no Biblical basis whatsoever. Why do people still celebrate the religious holiday even after they "know the facts?" It all comes down to one simple question. DOES IT MATTER?
Does it matter that the church adopted and transformed an ancient festival used to worship FALSE gods to worship the God of the Bible? Does it matter to GOD what customs and symbols are used to worship and honor Him as long as those who do them are sincere and have a good attitude?
The book of Exodus has one of the best Biblical examples of what God thinks about being worshipped using any of the customs and practices found in the worship of false or pagan gods. We pick up the story right after God has used Moses and Aaron to free the children of Israel from Egyptian slavery. The Israelites are temporarily camping near Mount Sinai, waiting for Moses to return after God commanded him to go up the mountain (where Moses would receive the Ten Commandments engraved in stone). As time passes without the appearance of Moses, the Israelites grow a little restless . . .
"Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, "Come, make us gods that shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him."
"And Aaron said to them, "Break off the golden earrings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me." . . . And he (Aaron) received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molded calf. Then they said, "This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!"
"So when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, "Tomorrow is a FEAST TO THE LORD." Then they rose early on the next day, offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play." (Exodus 32:1-2, 4-6, NKJV)
Note one very critical, but easy to overlook, fact concerning the above account. The Israelites, through Aaron's leadership, adapted the symbols (e.g. the idols) and ceremonies (uncontrolled revelry and orgies - verse 6) used to worship Egyptian gods to worship the TRUE God! The Bible does NOT state the Israelites used pagan practices to celebrate a festival to Baal, Molech or even any of the false Egyptian gods. In their minds, the children of Israel were having a "feast TO THE LORD!" Now, what did GOD think about the Israelites "borrowing" pagan symbols and ceremonies to use to worship HIM?
"And the Lord said to Moses, "Go, get down! For your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves. They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them. They have made themselves a molded calf, and worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, 'This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!'"
"'Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them AND I MAY CONSUME THEM . . . '" (Exodus 32:7-8, 10, NKJV)
God reserves the right to dictate how to worship him and the symbols and ceremonies man uses to honor Him. God does not like or approve of bunnies, eggs, sunrise services and alike used to serve or celebrate Him.
The origin of Easter Sunday with its symbols are rooted in the worship of false gods. Those who celebrate it and consider themselves believers in the God of the Bible need to take a prayerful look at their observance of the holiday.