The day of Easter, when Jesus is said to have been resurrected, changes from year to year.
The reason for this difference is that Easter is always celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the spring noon.
I am a Scholar of religious studies Specialized in early Christianity, and my research shows how the Easter holiday has evolved into the complex origins of this holiday and over the centuries.
Easter is similar to other major holidays like Christmas and Halloween that have been created in the last 200 years or so. In all these festivals, Christian and non-Christian (pagan) elements continue to mix together.
Easter as a spring ritual
Most of the major holidays have some connection with the change of seasons. This is especially clear In the case of Christmas. The New Testament does not give any information about the year of Jesus’ birth. Many scholars believe However, the main reason why Jesus’ birthday is celebrated on December 25 is that it is the day of the winter solstice according to the Roman calendar.
The days following the winter solstice were getting progressively longer and darker, which was ideal for giving birth. “Light of the World” As revealed in the New Testament, the Gospel of John.
So did Easter, which coincided with another key point in the solar year: the vernal equinox (around March 20), when there are equal periods of light and darkness. For those in northern latitudes, the arrival of spring is often filled with joy, because it means that the cold days of winter are over.
Spring also means the coming back to life of plants and trees that have been sleeping for the winter, as well as the birth of new life in the animal world. Given the symbolism of new life and rebirth, it was natural to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus this year.
The name of the festival “Easter” seems to go back to the name of the pre-Christian English goddess Eostre, who was celebrated at the beginning of spring. The only reference to this goddess comes from the writings of the late seventh and eighth century British monk Venerable Bede. As a scholar of religious studies Bruce Forbes It summarizes that:
“Bede writes that the month in which the Christians of England celebrated the resurrection of Jesus was called Eastermonth in Old English. Christians continue to use the names of the gods to name the season, even if they confirm the Christian meaning of the ceremony.
Bede was so influential among later Christians that his name stuck, and so Easter remains the name used by the English, Germans, and Americans to refer to the resurrection of Jesus.
The connection with the Jewish Passover
When the name “Easter” is used in the English-speaking world, it’s important to note that many cultures refer to it with words that are better translated as “Easter” (eg, the Greek “Pascha”) – a reference to the actual Jewish holiday of Passover.
In the Hebrew Bible, Passover is a celebration of the liberation of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt. The book of Exodus. It was and will continue to be The most important Jewish seasonal holiday, Celebrated on the first full moon after the vernal equinox.
In Jesus’ day, the Jewish people were again under the control of foreign powers (ie, the Romans), so the Passover took on a special meaning. Jewish pilgrims flocked to Jerusalem every year, hoping that God’s chosen people (as they themselves believed) would soon be freed again.
On one Passover, Jesus traveled to Jerusalem with His disciples to celebrate the Passover. He entered Jerusalem He was victorious and caused chaos in the Temple of Jerusalem. Both of these actions seem to have attracted the attention of the Romans, and as a result Jesus was executed around 30 AD.
But some of Jesus’ followers believed this. They saw him alive. Experiences that gave birth to the Christian religion after death. Since Jesus died on Passover and his followers believed he rose from the dead three days later, it made sense to celebrate these events closely.
Some early Christians He chose to celebrate Christ’s resurrection on the same day as the Jewish Passover, which was around the 14th day of Nisan in March or April. These Christians were known as Quartodecimans (the name means “fourteen”).
By choosing this date, they focus on the time of Jesus’ death and emphasize the continuity of Judaism from which Christianity emerged. Some chose to celebrate the festival on Sunday because it was the time when Jesus was buried It is believed to have been found.
In 325 AD, Emperor Constantine, who supported Christianity, called a meeting of Christian leaders to resolve important disputes at the Council of Nicaea. The worst of all the decisions was about the status of Christ that the congregation recognized. “Perfectly human and perfectly divine.” This council decided that Passover would be celebrated on a Sunday instead of the 14th of Nisan. as a result, Now the Passover is celebrated. On the first Sunday after the first full moon of the vernal equinox.
Easter Bunny and Easter Eggs
In early America, Easter was more popular with Catholics than Protestants. for instance, New England Puritans are considered. Both Easter and Christmas are contaminated by non-Christian influences and are worthy of celebration. Such festivals become occasions for excessive drinking and revelry.
The significance of both holidays changed in the 19th century, when they became occasions to spend with family. This was done partly out of a desire to keep the celebration of these festivals from being pirated.
But Easter and Christmas have changed as household holidays because the perception of children is changing. Before the 17th century, children were rarely the center of attention. As a historian Stephen Nissenbaum He wrote,
“…children were generally younger than other subordinates, especially servants and apprentices—not coincidentally, but generally themselves.
from Since the 17th century, Childhood was increasingly recognized as a period of life that should be enjoyable, not just preparation for adulthood. This “discovery of childhood” and the love for children has had a great impact on how Easter is celebrated.
Easter eggs and the Easter Bunny are especially important during the holiday boom. Decorated eggs were at least part of the Easter celebration. Since the Middle Ages, A clear sign of new life is given. A Many legends surround Easter eggs, And it is a decoration process in many Eastern European countries Very detailed. Several Eastern European legends describe it. Eggs to Red (a popular color for Easter eggs) In relation to the events surrounding the death and resurrection of Jesus.
However, it was only in the 17th century German tradition “Easter Bunny” It was known to bring good children eggs. Rabbits and hares have long been associated with spring seasonal rituals because of their amazing fertility powers.
When German immigrants settled in Pennsylvania in the 18th and 19th centuries, they brought this tradition with them. The wild rabbit is also replaced by the more docile and domesticated rabbit, indicating how the focus is shifting to children.
As Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus this spring, the familiar Easter bunny and Easter eggs serve as reminders of the holiday’s origins outside of Christian tradition.
This is an updated version of a piece published on March 21, 2018..
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Written by: Brent Landau, University of Texas at Austin College of Liberal Arts.
Brent Landau does not work for, consult with, share, or receive financial support from any company or organization that may benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond his academic appointment.