Easter History and Tradition
By Regina Pickett Garson
From sacred services observed at the break of dawn, to flowers, colored eggs, rabbits and elaborate feasting, from the earliest of times to the earliest of people, around the nation and globe, the Easter season is a time of religious contemplation and a celebration of new life and new beginnings.
With the millenniums, Easter traditions have variously melded Christian, Jewish, and Pagan practices. Each has left its mark on the Easter season as we know it today.
Today in the US, Easter is a Christian celebration of the day of resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. For some though, it is much more than a day, it is an entire season of spiritual contemplation. That season, depending on religion and denomination, may last anywhere from 40 to 50 days.
What is Easter?
Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday following the paschal full moon. "Pascal" is a variant of the Hebrew pesach, or Passover. Thus, from the very first, the Christian celebration of Easter was tied to the Jewish observance of Passover. Although the date was set according to the pascal full moon, whether or not it would be observed before or after the vernal equinox brought a debate that lasted for centuries. Despite the confusion that still seems to linger, the centuries brought precise mathematical calculations as to exactly when the day would be observed and how it would be celebrated.
Today, Easter is the most sacred of the Christian holidays. Also referred to as Resurrection Day, or Easter Sunday, it marks the day Jesus rose from the dead. In the clip that follows, a Mormon apostle shares his thoughts on the message of Easter and Christ.
An Apostle's Easter Thoughts on Christ
The Passover Story
Although the message is powerful, there was more. If Easter is celebrated two days after Passover, Passover was also very significant and a precursor to the celebration of Easter. Passover is also one of the most important of the Jewish holidays. It is a celebration of the Hebrew's escape from slavery in Egypt and it was Moses who led them out of that captivity.
Passover is a time of contemplation of the historic endurance and suffering of the Jewish people. With some variation, it is observed for seven or eight days. Passover is also celebrated in the spring and the date is also computed in relationship to the full moon, the month of Nisan and the vernal equinox. Specific foods are served to commemorate various facets of the observance.
Ostara, Easter, and the Vernal or Spring Equinox
Going back further still, to the pagan roots of the celebration, the name Easter has Germanic roots that date back to the Anglo Saxon goddess Eostre or Ostara. Although the story is ancient, and there is some dispute as to the details, by the time the modern celebration of Easter was fixed, celebrations that had originally been in Eostre's honor were dying out. What we do know is that they were celebrated at the time of the spring equinox during the month of April. She was associated with the hare (rabbit), baskets of eggs, fertility, flowers, and the East, dawn or rising sun.
Ishtar and Easter
Moving back even further, beyond the festivities, before Ostara, before the words and times of the Christian Bible, some may find the origins of the current celebrations troubling. Easter, as it is celebrated today, is without a doubt the combining of some very different and even opposing religious traditions. The following clips provide a Christian perspective of the origin of the current Easter holiday celebration. They are a two part series. They are not recommended for children. The first can only be seen on Youtube.com, thus the link instead of the video file. I conclude my overview of the history of Easter with these clips.
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