by Andy Khong
Easter is a Christian holiday that celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead but most of the customs and symbols associated with Easter have pagan origins
The origins of the name “Easter” are uncertain, but it is widely believed to have been derived from “Eostre”, a pagan Germanic Goddess of fertility and spring; also known as “the Goddess of the Dawn” – ancient believers would hold a big festival around the time of the Spring Equinox each year in her honour to celebrate the return of the Sun and the renewal of life after the long winter months.
The legend of Eostre entertaining a group of children is widespread. She changed her pet bird into a pet rabbit as part of the demonstration; and the rabbit could still lay eggs like a bird. The story advanced over many years, ultimately transforming into the legend of the ‘Osterhase’ – an egg-laying rabbit who delivered eggs and concealed them around homes and gardens for youngsters to track down on Easter morning.
In 598 CE Pope Gregory I (also known as Gregory the Great) instructed his missionaries to embrace local pagan customs in order to make Christianity more palatable to potential converts. This strategy, known as “inculturation,” was intended to make it easier for the new converts to see the similarities between their own beliefs and practices and those of Christianity [inculturation = is the adaptation of Christian teachings and practices to cultures].
The process of inculturation involved identifying elements of the local culture that could be used to express Christian concepts and ideas, and working Christian symbols and messages into these existing traditions. For example, some pagan festivals (like Easter) were reinterpreted as Christian holidays, with Christian themes and messages added to the traditional rituals and practices.
This approach was not without controversy, as some Christian leaders argued that it risked diluting the purity of Christian doctrine and practice. However, Pope Gregory and his followers believed that it was essential in order to make Christianity more accessible to people from different cultural backgrounds.
Over time, this process of inculturation proved to be highly effective, as Christianity spread throughout Europe and beyond, gradually replacing the traditional pagan religions. Pope Gregory instructed his missionaries to embrace, rather than reject, local pagan customs in order to make Christianity more palatable for the potential converts.
Thus what started out as a celebration of a Germanic Goddess Eostre, and a rabbit that laid eggs evolved into the holiday we now know as Easter.
It is believed that the Easter Bunny was introduced to America by German immigrants in the 18th century. In Germany, it was traditional to decorate eggs and hide them for children to find on Easter morning. The Osterhase, or Easter Hare, was said to lay the eggs and hide them around the home and garden for children to find. Over time, the tradition of decorating and hiding eggs evolved, and the Easter Bunny became a more prominent part of the celebration. Cadbury popularized molded chocolate eggs in the late 19th century which eventually replaced real eggs. Today, many people associate the Easter Bunny with chocolate eggs and other treats, which are often given as gifts to children on Easter Sunday.
While the legend of the Easter Bunny is not directly related to the religious significance of Easter, it is a fun and festive tradition that has become a beloved part of the holiday for many people around the world.
Young Pioneer Tours wishes everyone, “Happy Easter! I hope our ‘Bunny’ trails connect soon!”
Happy “Hoppy” Easter! Hoping your Easter is extra bright and happy this lunar Year of the Wabbit!