We always wondered how rabbits, eggs and hot cross buns come to represent the spring holiday we call Easter. So with a little bit of Google magic we did some digging and found out some pretty interesting things.
For example, a majority of Easter associations did not actually originate with Christian practices, but rather from Persian, Greek and Babylonian traditions that Christians adopted.
Here’s more of what we found:
1. Why do we do what we do? Ancient Babylonians, who lived 2,000 years before Christ, would annually commemorate the resurrection of their food and vegetation god Tammuz, who was brought back from the underworld by his mother, Ishtar. Funny thing is, their festivities are exactly how Christians all over the world celebrate today — egg dyeing, hot cross buns and formal Sunday morning worship.
2. Why is it called “Easter”? Not only can we thank the ancient Babylonians for the Easter activities, but we can also thank them for the name. Ishtar is actually pronounced “Easter,” according to many Semitic dialects. Perhaps this is when the name “Easter” became associated with the resurrection of a culture’s special god.
3. Or… Did we get the name “Easter” from the ancient goddess Eostre — better known as Goddess of the Growing Light of Spring? She was known to represent the bright and vibrant first half of the year, loved by many and known for the innocence and beauty associated with springtime.
4. So, what’s the deal with the rabbit? You might be sitting there thinking, “Wait, but rabbits don’t even lay eggs.” So here’s why the rabbit is associated with Easter: Not only do rabbits multiply at an alarming rate, they also have spiritual symbolism. It is said that rabbits are actually the “spiritual twin” or totemic representation of Eostre, the goddess mentioned above. So with this combination of grand fertility and spiritual bondage, the rabbit carries the heavy weight of being Easter’s mascot.
5. Thought that dyeing eggs was just for fun? Think again! Ages ago, Egyptians logically used an egg to symbolize fertility, new life and resurrection. They used to think that eggs fell from the sky, which meant that the gods were sending them a message — a new life had arrived! Red dye, gathered from plant pigments, was used to color eggs and symbolized the blossoming colors of springtime.
6. Why does Easter fall on a different day every year? Christianity’s one exception to adopting certain Pagan practices is the date which we celebrate Easter. Based on our solar system, every year Easter is scheduled to fall on the first Sunday after the first full Moon of the Vernal Equinox.
These facts about Easter raise a bigger question: Why did early Christians adopt pagan holidays and rituals for themselves?
It’s complicated and there were a lot of variables and historical points involved, but here’s the quick version from Answers.com:
By adopting pagan feasts, the Christians could provide an alternative for converts who were unwilling to give up ancient festivities. As Christianity became the majority religion, they could also demand that all people attend church or other Christian observances on that day, thus ensuring that the people did not spend time in observance of pagan celebrations.