Pages Menu
TwitterRssFacebook
Categories Menu

Posted by on Apr 18, 2014 in Easter, featured, secularism | 27 comments

Yes Candida, Christians Did Steal Easter!

keep-eostre-in-easter

http://keepeostreineaster.com/

CNN’s BeliefNet writer, Candida Moss claims with a straight face that Christians didn’t steal Easter and that this is just a myth. Yeah, it’s just a myth no doubt created by the Devil or some atheists. Okay, she didn’t say that last part, but you get the idea. The funny part here is that Easter is the one holidays where Christians were too lazy to even bother to change the name of the holiday.

Moss starts off by claiming that Easter has nothing to do with the Goddess Ishtar and that even though “Easter” and “Ishtar” sound the same that doesn’t mean that they are the same. She is of course correct here on both counts. Easter has nothing to do with the Goddess Ishtar nor does the fact that the two nouns sound the same mean anything at all.

I don’t actually recall anyone claiming that Ishtar was the source for Easter. The Goddess Ēastre on the other hand has a lot to do with Easter. It isn’t just that the two proper nouns look and sound the same either. They are the same!!!!

Don’t believe me? I don’t recall reading in the Bible about Jesus ever owning a hare. Perhaps you could point out that Bible verse to me. Oh wait, you can’t because there is no such verse like that in the Bible and Jesus never painted any eggs either.

The story of the Easter Bunny comes from the stories around the Pagan Goddess Ēastre. I should point out that I am using the spelling of her name that most closely looks like the holiday we celebrate today merely to highlight the issue. In fairness, Ēastre has many spellings. Here are just a few: Ēostre, Ostara, and Austrō. Still, we are talking about the same Pagan Goddess and I encourage readers to Google any of them.

There are actually many different versions of the Ēastre story; the most prominent story is that the Goddess came upon a little girl who had found a dying bird. The girl asked Ēastre for help because the bird was not used to the cold weather. Ēastre then melted the snow and brought about the spring. She then turned the bird into a hare that laid rainbow eggs and told the young girl to watch every year for the hare as a sign of the spring season. Traditionally, the Ēastre Festival had focused on fertility to mirror the new life of the spring season.

Now let’s look at the Jesus “Easter” story. In this story, Jesus sacrifices his life to bring about new life for everyone in Heaven. The basic premise is the same — the idea of new life to symbolize the coming of spring. The concept of death and new life is the main theme of the story and yet for some reason we paint eggs and eat chocolate bunnies… but no, Christians didn’t steal Easter at all, lol.

Sorry Christians, but Easter is a Pagan holiday just like almost every other Christian holiday. It isn’t my fault that the early Christian church lacked imagination when they started coming up with holidays. Moss shouldn’t try to distance her religious traditions from its Pagan roots. It won’t make her mythology any less mythical or ridiculous. I don’t really even see why it matters. It’s fun to hunt for Easter Eggs and eat a bunch of candy and at the end of the day that is really the most important part of any holiday – to have fun.

Enhanced by Zemanta

  • Stewart Felker

    It’s embarrassing to see something so uncritical from a self-proclaimed skeptic.

    • http://skepticink.com/dangeroustalk Dangerous Talk

      Uncritical? How do you figure?

      • Stewart Felker

        If you can find me the origin of this supposed tale involving Ēastre, the dying bird, the rainbow eggs, etc., I will literally suck your dick. Now, I’m not actually gay; but I’m willing to go that far out on the limb for this. And you can hold me to it–I’m using my real name, so I wouldn’t be hard to find.

        Now, this source cannot be a tale fabricated from scratch that appears in a modern children’s book. It cannot be an unsourced copy-and-pasted paragraph from a shitty Geocities neo-pagan site. Any primary source will do–like “recorded in the 15th century anthology of Germanic folktales .”

        • http://skepticink.com/dangeroustalk Dangerous Talk

          I brief Google search will show that the historian Bede from the 7th century is the main source of our current knowledge concerning the Goddess Ēostre. However more modern historians have also done some research into this. I will add that there is some debate about this, but that is mainly from Christians who are desperate to maintain their holiday. Bede himself was a Christian and that certainly helps to support his story since he was basically committing heresy. Like I said in the article, there are many different versions of the story but they all have some common themes and threads. These were after all folktales.

          I’m not gay either and I am married, so I’m going to pass on your offer. Don’t take it personally. ;-)

          • Stewart Felker

            Bede preserves all of one entire sentence (or two, I suppose) on this–that Eostur-monath “was once called after a goddess of theirs named Eostre, in whose honour feasts were celebrated in that month.” In fact, this is the sum-total of ALL our direct evidence about this deity (though see my comments below). Oh, and Bede was simply commenting on pagan/English practices; and so there’s no way that this could be “heresy.”

            Christians who are “desperate to maintain their holiday” don’t get to publish academic research, like real historians do. So whatever debate there is about the existence or non-existence of such a deity is a firmly secular academic issue.

            I personally do think that there’s (neglected) indirect evidence for such a deity. But your comments about Eastre and the dying bird and such are verifiably untrue. Again, our only direct evidence comes from Bede. Everything else is speculation, conjecture.

          • http://skepticink.com/dangeroustalk Dangerous Talk

            There is no debate about where or not this deity or any other deity exists. They don’t! Deities are imaginary.

            Yes, it is conjecture based on various folktales. Like I stated in the blog post, there are many different stories but they often share common themes and elements. The story I posted was one of the more popular versions which addresses the modern Easter celebration.

          • Stewart Felker

            You know what I meant–not whether or not this deity actually existed, but whether this was really a deity that was worshiped or not.

            I’m not sure what you mean by “story” here, but if you’re referring to the one that you called “the most prominent one” in your original post, I’ll again remind you that no such story ever existed. Not even close, to the best of my knowledge.

          • Stewart Felker

            Also, for what it’s worth: I think saying that Easter has become a “pagan” holiday simply because people paint eggs on it is a bit like saying that a football game is a display of patriotism because it’s accompanied with the singing of the national anthem.

          • http://skepticink.com/dangeroustalk Dangerous Talk

            Football is a display of patriotism so I don’t really see your point here.

          • Stewart Felker

            Football is primarily a type of competitive physical activity, which takes place on all levels–from kids playing in a backyard to the national or international competition. Following the particular rules of football are the things that the sport needs to do/be, to be considered football. Everything else is, by definition, secondary and–theoretically–totally extraneous.

          • spitz

            That’s about as silly as thinking painting eggs and sitting in pews is a religious event simply because some superstitious people believe there’s some magic significance to what they’re doing. Might as well say that someone getting spooked in the middle of the night is an example of a spiritual event while you’re at it.

            Maybe Easter and Eostre just have similar roots and they lifted their weird fertility imagery from some unrelated customs… either way, it doesn’t seem to have come out of the mythology they’re attempting to honor, and “pagan” is the magic slur for just about anything else.

          • James

            You won’t find a source for the story because it doesn’t exist. It was most likely made up by one of the Grimm brothers (of Grimm’s Fairy Tales fame) in the early 18′s.

            Your article is horribly written and not very persuasive. You should bother to read and source the material you’re writing about instead of just pulling from the internet as you go. learn what makes a good source, learn how to present counter points that are sourced when making a persuasive argument. So much of this article is just pure conjecture and the rest is just bad information based upon bad sources.

            Also bother to read about and understand Syncretism. It will help in dissuading you from believing idiotic things like “The Christians stole Easter from German paganism hurr hurr”. Easter while the name may (and that’s mostly a one source from the 8th century) come from a the name of a pagan goddess was still recontextualized by the Christians to celebrate Christ’s resurrection which happened to fall near the same time that Germans were celebrating their spring holiday. It’s a perfect example of the church recontextualizing local practices to help the transition from pagan to christian.

          • Ryan

            Bede (an Anglo-Saxon himself) saying a month in spring was named after the Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre definitely wasn’t heresy. It wasn’t even something the church would need to hush-hush or pooh-pooh. The early-medieval church wasn’t nearly that paranoid–they knew they were living in cultures that had been pagan not long ago, and there’d be no reason to pretend they weren’t or try to hide all that obvious evidence from view. Note that when the Romans became Christians, they didn’t change the name of the old Roman months either, even though many of those were named after pagan gods and goddesses. People kept on keeping on. Local folk kept doing most of what they always did (as long as it didn’t conflict too strongly with basic Christian tenets) and the church leadership was generally savvy enough to ease up and let it ride, or even integrate it and celebrate it sometimes. Christianity didn’t spread by being brittle, but by speaking to preexisting elements within cultures while offering a new core explanation for things.

          • Ryan

            (Bede’s considered a saint, by the way. Not a designation you usually get if you’re committing heresy. I like to call him the Venerable Bede, as he’s often known–because really, what a great title. I think we should all aspire for such a grandiloquent posthumous designation.)

  • Gryffyn

    TYPO: Paragraph 6, sentence 2.

    Should read:

    “The girl asked Eastre for help because the bird was not USED TO the cold weather.”

    The
    girl asked Ēastre for help because the bird was not use to the cold
    weather – See more at:
    http://www.skepticink.com/dangeroustalk/2014/04/18/yes-candida-christians-steal-easter/#sthash.e5S2V1Eq.dpuf
    for
    help because the bird was not use to the cold weather. – See more at:
    http://www.skepticink.com/dangeroustalk/2014/04/18/yes-candida-christians-steal-easter/#sthash.e5S2V1Eq.dpuf
    for
    help because the bird was not use to the cold weather. – See more at:
    http://www.skepticink.com/dangeroustalk/2014/04/18/yes-candida-christians-steal-easter/#sthash.e5S2V1Eq.dpuf

    • Gryffyn

      Sorry for the errors – link posted strangely because I was trying to copy and paste. I ended up retyping your words because they did not seem to have pasted.

    • http://skepticink.com/dangeroustalk Dangerous Talk

      Fixed. Thanks! :-)

  • Henk Um

    @theparents of candida moss.
    Naming a kid after a nasty yeast infection is NOT a nice thing to do…

    • Ryan

      Candida is Latin for “bright” or “bright white” or “shining,” or by extension “honest” and “candid.” (See where we get that?) We get our modern word “candidate” from the “toga candida,” the ceremonial white garment worn by those running for public office. It can also be used to describe other whitish things, included (famously) yeast infections.

      I definitely see what you mean (and almost made your point for you by misspelling “public” a moment ago…whoops) but any linguistic similarity here is, like that between Easter and Ishtar, purely and unfortunately coincidental.

  • Ryan

    James is right about the Syncretism thing. Academic scholars of religion understand this, and many Christians have no problem with it.

    Most Christians know that the Apostles didn’t put up a Christmas tree on December 25th. These are cultural observances drawn from Germanic or Roman roots, with an admitted Christian twist. But there’s no reason that alone should violate their validity. It’s easier to take old habits and re-offer them a new light than steamroll an entire culture’s longstanding traditions. (The Church has done both in the past.) It’s not surreptitious. It’s often an open and generous admission that, “yes, humans ought to celebrate, and there are many good reasons to. Here is a new one for you–the birth of Christ. You can keep the trees and gifts, those are beautiful touches.”

    The primary mistake in your argument, Dangerous Talk, is a conflating and re-arranging of late antique and early medieval history.

    Certainly the name “Easter,” and possibly the rabbits and eggs (jury still out there, I guess), are holdovers from Germanic pagan customs in Northern Europe.

    But Christianity didn’t even ARRIVE in Northern Europe for centuries after the death of Jesus and the foundation of the Church.

    People were celebrating Easter for centuries before any pagan Germanic elements got superficially glommed onto it.

    Pascha was Easter’s name at that point, and still is its name in Orthodox churches. It’s derived from Hebrew Pesach, referring to the Passover. Most sources agree that Jesus’ crucifixion occurred near the date of Passover.

    It’s not analogous to, say, Christmas, where the December 25th date was probably selected in part because it jived well with the pagan population’s prior habits of celebrating during the Winter Solstice. (Again, why bother rescheduling an event when you can just change it’s name? There’s no conspiracy or cover up here.)

    But that’s not what happened with Easter. The two holidays (Germanic spring celebrations–and also Celtic ones, I’m sure–and the Jewish-passover-influenced Christian holiday) happened to fall around the same time, and the Jewish-passover-influenced Christian holiday intermingled with Germanic traditions when it arrived in Germanic lands. When in Rome, do as Romans do.

    Most modern languages use a derivation of the word Pascha (French Pâques, e.g.), and don’t call it Easter at all. Certainly anyone in the Roman world was calling it Pascha in the first several centuries C.E., and rabbits aside, the format was pretty much the same.

    In summary, it’s actually a very Anglo-centric argument to suggest that Easter the world over shares Germanic roots. Germanic and Anglo-Saxon peoples weren’t even celebrating Pascha for centuries, and Easter is just what they called it, not what everyone called it.

    I’m sure there were, and are, many places in the world without any rabbits or eggs in the celebration. I suspect the fact that rabbits and eggs are widespread today has more to do with Anglo-speaking cultural or political imperialism in the modern era than it does with original Pascha iconography in the ancient Near East.

    There’s pretty much no way Germanic elements of language or culture
    could have had a strong influence on early Christianity, including the
    observance of Pascha itself. The FORM of observing Easter in Northern Europe shares something with our pagan past, but not the CONTENT, which is chiefly ancient and Mediterranean, a product of Jewish tradition expressed in a Greek-speaking Roman East, in response to a historically-verifiable event (the crucifixion) and a widely-believed spiritual event following it (the resurrection).

    That’s just how the history shakes out, and it’s the simplest and best explanation. A skeptic shouldn’t reach for a far-out conspiracy when the historical evidence explains the present reality so sufficiently.

    I’d like to take this opportunity to refer the authors and readers of this website to atheist, skeptic, and amateur historian Tim O’Neill’s blog, Armarium Magnum, which does a terrific job tackling ancient, late-antique, and medieval history from a rational, empirical, straight-shooting standpoint, using proper historical discipline. He pokes a lot of holes in urban legends you’ve often heard, some of which are generated by the skeptical and atheist communities. Tim does a good job of cleaning house and getting everybody back to the facts, which is a real boon to the continuing discourse about religion, science, and the legacy of history today.

    Here’s are two good posts to start with. I think these are must-reads if you’re trying to talk about the history of science or religion in late antiquity and the Middle Ages:

    http://armariummagnus.blogspot.com/2013/01/stephen-greenblatt-swerve-how-world.html
    http://armariummagnus.blogspot.com/2009/06/closing-of-western-mind-by-charles.html

    He’s also got good stuff on Hypatia, in history and in popular mythology.

    Here’s another article he wrote on why the science-advocacy community needs to get a better grasp on how the academic discipline of history works:
    http://deityshmeity.blogspot.com.au/2013/11/why-history-isnt-scientific-and-why-it.html

    • Aielyn

      Your point would be quite reasonable and significant… if Rosch had asserted that Pascha was stolen from the pagans. Instead, he said that Easter was stolen from the pagans. Easter, the spring-arrival event/festival named after a pagan goddess, involving eggs and rabbits, and into which the Pascha religious observances were inserted in some notable parts of the world.

      • James

        Actually if you read the article he linked to you would realize that the author makes the claim that Christians didn’t steal the idea of ressurection from the pagan goddess. Roach in this article claims that they did steal “Easter”.

        FTA “It isn’t my fault that the early Christian church lacked imagination when they started coming up with holidays.”

        There is quite clearly a historical precedent for the early church celebrating the ressurectio. of Christ around the Passover season. The intigration of the rabbit and eggs may or may not be caused by syncratic practices of the early church. There simply isn’t enough proof to make a valid argument for those being left over from spring Easter practices. The intigration of the name of the goddess is almost meaningless considering the fact that this holiday is still celebrated by Christians in other cultures on the same day.

        Why would you defend such a poorly written and thought out article anyway?

      • Ryan

        @Aielyn, I follow your logic there, and you put a finer point on the issue than I did.

        I
        was looking at it from the perspective of Pascha as the preexisting
        holiday, largely because it’s the holiday that continues to be practiced
        more widely (just under a new name in historically Germanic and
        Anglo-speaking sections of the world).

        But to an early-medieval
        Germanic pagan, Easter was the preexisting holiday and Pascha (no matter
        how old in other parts of the world) was the newcomer. You’re right to
        point that out.

        My general point, which I still think is true and
        relevant to Rosch’s post, was that Christians didn’t “invent” modern
        Easter by rearranging prior Germanic elements. They invented it based on
        the crucifixion/resurrection story and Jewish Passover iconography, and
        Germanic elements contributed to its customs in Northern Europe much
        later.

        I’m sure, for example, the early churches of India
        (founded before the churches of the Germanic world) probably didn’t
        observe Pascha with any reference to rabbits or eggs at the time, though
        they might nowadays (not sure) occasionally, because of the British Raj
        and modern Western media and all that.

        In other words, annual
        spring observances of Jesus’ crucifixion and accompanying language about
        renewal and resurrection do not owe their existence to pagan sources,
        German or otherwise. They started within Judaism and spread when
        Christianity did (sometimes encountering and enfolding other language
        about resurrection along the way, later on).

        But as you correctly
        observe, from the perspective of Germanic pagans, then and (I suppose)
        now, it might have felt like Christians were horning in on THEIR
        preexisting Easter festivities.

        (Again, the jury is still out on
        whether the Germanic pagans had a fixed religious holiday here or
        whether Christians just borrowed local folk iconography that the Germans
        also applied to Eastre.)

        Then again, though, to claim that “the Christians stole holiday X or Y from pagans” muddies the waters a little.

        It’s
        not like there are two separate groups of people involved here. There’s
        only one group (Germanic tribes of late antiquity/early medieval times)
        moving between two philosophies (pagan and Christian).

        In these
        late-antique and early-medieval scenarios, we’re not quite dealing with
        the kind of all-powerful group of churchmen churning along as an
        instrument of political imperialism that we might imagine with, say, the
        Conquistadors.

        Generally Christianity came to the Germanic
        peoples (including the Anglo-Saxons) via a few missionary monks here and
        there, and was adopted gradually by different tribes more or less
        voluntarily, not under duress.

        Remember that the Roman Empire was
        noticeably waning, and the Germanic powers waxing, in these regions at
        the time, although many Germans were Romanizing (or as they likely saw
        it, modernizing) themselves fairly voluntarily, and Christianity might
        have been a part and parcel of that. (Of course, Arian Christianity was
        their preferred mode in many cases, not the orthodox Christianity of the
        Constantinopolitan church, which led to its own friction.)

        A
        distinct group of Christians didn’t conquer a distinct group of pagans
        here. In fact, if anything, a group of pagans conquered a fairly
        newly-Christianized people (the Romans). And picked up Christianity
        while they did it. (Not unlike how the Romans occasionally picked up
        native religions and philosophies from people they defeated and
        integrated into their empire.)

        So it would be as accurate, and
        probably more accurate, to say that Germanic tribes kept practicing
        their old Germanic customs, but put them into the new holiday they
        wanted to celebrate, Pascha, which they “translated” (that might be the
        best word) into their own tongue and their own worldview as Easter.

        Sort
        of like how the Romans just called the Celtic gods “Mercury” and
        “Jupiter” and “Apollo” rather than their proper Celtic names Lugus,
        Taranis, and Belenus. They made an analogy between the foreign and
        domestic gods, and used the domestic term they were comfortable with. I
        suspect that, as much as anything, is why the Germanic tribes called the
        Christian holiday “Easter” in their own tongue, rather than borrowing a
        foreign Greek word.

        Or sort of like how Americans sing “my
        country, ’tis of thee” instead of “God save the queen.” It doesn’t make
        us surreptitiously British. And you could argue that Americans have as
        much claim to old English customs as the English do, since
        pre-revolutionary war England was our common ancestor. (The tune of “God
        Save the Queen” dates from the 17th or early 18th century.)

        Anyway,
        the Germans themselves were largely the agents of this change. When
        it’s Germanic tribes altering Germanic holidays, I think it’s pretty
        hard to point fingers then, and talk about anyone “stealing” anything
        else. Unless you were one of the (minority) Germanic pagan holdouts who
        took a dim view of their friends and neighbors deciding to be
        Christians. At which point you’d be more like the Tea Partiers claiming
        that liberals are “stealing” this country–the old guard complaining
        about the new evolution of thought.

        As to whether borrowing
        language or iconography is always “stealing,” from anyone and in any
        circumstance, well, that’s what all religions and philosophies and art
        movements and political systems and cultures do. There’s no crying in
        baseball, and there’s no whining “hey, you took my idea” in cultural
        anthropology. Ideas are meant to be shared and to metamorphose as times
        change. It’s how humans work.

        It doesn’t constitute a lack of
        creativity. It’s a creative twist in the context of tradition. It’s an
        homage to the past as much as a departure. Again, if there were a group
        of Christian missionaries arriving amongst Germanic tribes, they could
        have insisted that rabbits and eggs had to go. But they didn’t, and the
        Germanic tribes didn’t ditch them when they chose Christianity. They
        harmonized the traditions. I’d say that’s creative and practical and, in
        a way, respectful.

        So yes, it’s possible to make claims about
        some pagan roots of modern Easter, in addition to Judeo-Christian ones.
        It’s important to note that these pagan roots, though, are generally
        tied to the iconography but not to the content. We can speculate about
        Germanic beliefs about renewal and resurrection (common to many spring
        holidays) but these beliefs didn’t have any CAUSAL relation with
        Judeo-Christian beliefs about renewal and resurrection. They just
        happened to jive, when the religions bumped into each other a few
        centuries later. (This happens a lot with world religions because they
        often arrive at the same themes, and often more or less independently.
        There are only so many ways to skin a cat, in the end.)

        And the
        content of modern Easter participates chiefly in the Judeo-Christian
        language about resurrection, not the Germanic discourse. I suspect that
        Germanic ideas about resurrection, from the modern standpoint, were
        chiefly a conduit by which other Germanic iconography flowed into
        Germanic Pascha observances and thus into modern Easter.

        So
        Germanic Easter isn’t the root of Christian Pascha, and neither holiday
        has exclusive claim to being the only root of modern Easter traditions,
        though Christian Pascha is the more well-attested historically, and is
        the one that survived into modern times more intact, and is the one the
        Germans themselves chose to observe, rather than the Mediterranean
        Christians choosing to observe ancient Eastre celebrations (if they
        existed, and the jury is out on that).

        But saying (as Rosch does)
        that modern Easter is fundamentally a pagan, not Christian, holiday
        creates a false dichotomy (for one thing), and if anything selects the
        less influential side of the dichotomy and pretends it’s the whole
        story.

        And I’m not sure why it even matters, if Christian
        holidays have some pagan roots–again a lot of Christians know that, and
        it’s not troubling to them. I think sometimes skeptics feel like
        demonstrating religious evolution is an automatic “gotcha!” moment that
        invalidates religion, whereas actually it just demonstrates facts about
        the historical phenomenon of religion that most educated people
        (religious or otherwise) know full well.

        I’d like to think you’re
        right, Aielyn, that Rosch’s point wasn’t that the Church invented the
        whole resurrection story based on Eastre myths. But I feel like it
        actually was. Mostly due to lines like these:

        “Now let’s look at
        the Jesus “Easter” story. In this story, Jesus sacrifices his life to
        bring about new life for everyone in Heaven. The basic premise is the
        same — the idea of new life to symbolize the coming of spring. The
        concept of death and new life is the main theme of the story and yet for
        some reason we paint eggs and eat chocolate bunnies… but no, Christians
        didn’t steal Easter at all, lol.
        Sorry Christians, but Easter is a
        Pagan holiday just like almost every other Christian holiday. It isn’t
        my fault that the early Christian church lacked imagination when they
        started coming up with holidays. Moss shouldn’t try to distance her
        religious traditions from its Pagan roots.”
        And the argument that,
        “surprise, you Christians have been celebrating a pagan holiday all this
        time” is kind of pointless too. Having rabbits and eggs around doesn’t
        mean Christians are worshipping Eastre, and it doesn’t mean that calling
        one’s Pascha observances by the Germanic name “Easter” means that
        Christian Easter is really just a pagan holiday, like (supposedly)
        “almost every other Christian holiday.” If Christians en masse make a
        binding decision to practice it annually as a Christian holiday, then
        it’s a Christian holiday, whatever else it might also be.

        You
        don’t see anyone writing article saying, “hey, suck it, Christians,
        you’re actually celebrating Passover during Easter–it’s even called
        Pascha after Pesach–and pretty much all your holidays are just Jewish!”
        Would that bother anyone? Of course not. Earlier religions give rise to
        later religions and all religions cross-pollinate at least a little
        with concurrent ones.

        We should also differentiate between
        seasonal folk observances and religious ritual. Santa Claus has origins
        in many folk traditions but doesn’t play a major role in, say, Christmas
        Eve church services. Likewise rabbits and eggs are fun customs for much
        of the world in the spring, but they aren’t the real meat-and-potatoes
        of Easter and have little relevance in Easter church services or
        religious events.

        I think Rosch is mixing those up a bit. Easter
        isn’t just defined as “that rabbit and egg holiday.” If it WERE, we’d
        have an easier time saying it’s a pagan Germanic holiday that’s mostly
        for fun and to celebrate spring.

        But I don’t think historically
        that’s what Easter means, or has meant, in the main. Even to pagan
        Germanic tribes. “The rabbit-and-egg holiday” is how a three-year-old
        might define Easter, but not any alert adult. It’s a comical reduction
        to a trivial side detail. It’s like defining Christmas as “the holiday
        about trees” or America as “that eagle country.” This is why Rosch’s
        statements about rabbits and eggs being missing from the New Testament
        are irrelevant. “Easter is a Christian holiday? Then how come there
        ain’t any Easter Bunny in the Bible?” I know that Rosch is trying to be
        funny there, but the line of argument is absurd and Rosch still
        implicitly holds to it elsewhere. “Obama was born in the U.S.? Then how
        come he ain’t wearin’ a flag pin?” Obviously rabbits and such are
        incidental to the holiday, not essential, just as a flag pin is
        incidental, not essential, to being an American.

        And I think it’s
        that kind of thinking–that somehow rabbits or eggs or fertility are
        the chief, original, essential characteristics of the holiday–that
        leads people to assume (whether Ishtar or Eastre is the alleged source)
        that rabbits and eggs and spring fertility themes EVOLVED INTO the
        Christian concept of the resurrection, which just isn’t the case.

        Christianity
        (like Judaism and Islam) is a religion tied to the unfolding of
        historical and political events, not to seasonal cycles, and its
        holidays don’t arise organically over years of slowly forming habits.
        Jesus was crucified one year, and Christians were commemorating it every
        year after. The Maccabees regained control of the Jerusalem temple, and
        now Jewish people observe Hanukkah. Christians and Jews don’t usually
        just sit back and say, “I really feel we should have some kind of
        festival to celebrate some abstract idea or other.” Holidays in those
        traditions are usually about something that happened once, within their
        history, even if the date of the festival gets moved from the actual
        date of occurrence. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, abstract ideas are
        usually extrapolated out of the stories of events, not vice versa.

        It remains to be proven, too, that the pagans had the monopoly on rabbits and eggs.

        Couldn’t
        we just as easily say that rabbits and eggs were an ancient folk symbol
        of fertility for Germanic peoples? And that these symbols were used to
        illustrate qualities of the goddess Eastre during pagan times, and then
        qualities of the resurrection during Christian times?

        The lion,
        for example, was a symbol of various deities through the ancient
        Mediterranean and Near East. Should we assume that because it also came
        to stand for Jesus that it was a case of Christians “stealing” an old
        pagan symbol? Isn’t it just as accurate to say that lions (for obvious
        physical reasons) suggest majesty and strength and superiority, and that
        any people who knew about lions would be likely to use them to stand
        for these things?

        Mostly I’m trying to correct historical
        misunderstandings in this post, because I think everyone can benefit
        from that, no matter what point one is ultimately trying to make. But
        lastly (and sorry this is so long-winded) I take issue with the argument
        that all holidays are just meant for us to have fun.

        Is that
        what Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is for? Memorial Day? Veterans Day?
        Earth Day? The Fourth of July? Cinco de Mayo? Black History Month?

        No,
        they’re meant to commemorate some concept or some event or some person,
        or to promote some kind of reflection or virtue. They aren’t just “to
        celebrate,” intransitively. They’re “to celebrate something,”
        transitively. Or at least, that’s what they WERE for, and if we
        understand history we should be aware of that and sensitive to it.

        Christians
        need to realize that there’s a secular tradition of holidays, and that
        many people are going to put up a Christmas tree even if they don’t have
        any special feelings about Jesus. But that doesn’t mean that we
        shouldn’t all be aware that we celebrate Christmas because,
        historically, it was the date chosen to commemorate the birth of Jesus,
        and that we shouldn’t show respect and decency towards those for which
        it still means that, even if we’ve decided it’s allowed to mean other
        things now for us. (And Christians should be sensitive to that latter
        concern, too.)

        I think this is particularly true for Easter and
        Good Friday. These days were set aside to commemorate a man’s death, and
        to somberly reflect on a message about love and sacrifice. That’s
        something a lot of us can get behind on at least some level, or at least
        keep a respectful distance from.

        I might get a day off of work
        for MLK day, and spend it eating cheese doodles and watching Netflix.
        I’d be well within my rights. But if someone approaches me at the
        grocery store (where I’m stocking up on more cheese doodles) and says,
        “say, friend, do you know what we’re celebrating today?” I’m not going
        to say “buzz off, loser, this is a day to have fun, I don’t need your
        tired old platitudes about civil rights and martyrdom. This is just a
        HOLIDAY.”

        Even if (for some reason) I didn’t think highly of MLK,
        I’d try to be respectful. Mocking the person doesn’t make me a radical
        freethinking badass who’s not afraid to go against the grain. In this
        case, it makes me an asshole.

        A holiday is literally a holy day.
        Whatever your personal definition of “holy” is, whether sacred or
        secular, it’s a day set aside to observe something about our world and
        ourselves. Fun is incidental, not essential, to that definition, and
        people are naturally going to get a bit antsy if you have fun at the
        expense of their serious observance, and deny that their serious
        observance has any historic validity. Maybe they’re over-sensitive, but
        that doesn’t give us the go-ahead to be inconsiderate. All of us hold
        SOMETHING to be sacred to us.

        This last section mostly @Rosch,
        since I think the article is unduly flippant and not in the spirit of
        honest inquiry. There’s nothing wrong with probing the issue of the
        evolution and cross-pollination of religious practices, but one doesn’t
        score points in that debate by being snide. Only by being reasonable.

        • Ryan

          And sorry for the weird formatting, not sure how that happened. Copy/pasted from a text document.

          • Ryan

            Rereading the original article: I grant that there is a German folk story for children about an Easter Hare bringing eggs. (Not necessarily mentioning Eostre.) We don’t have any compelling, undeniable reason to believe that that story is necessarily pre-Christian though. It might be, but it might not be. And if it is from the Christian era, it might be borrowing pre-Christian imagery, or it might not be.

            Remember that hares are hares, and eggs are eggs, and spring is spring, and that neither Christians nor pagans have exclusive claim to those. A fable about animals or weather is not necessarily pagan, and could likely be medieval Christian in origin.

            Or later. All we know for sure is that in the 1800s, people had been telling the story of the Easter Hare for some generations, and its ultimate origins weren’t remembered by the tellers and couldn’t be retraced. It’s actually a pretty big leap of faith to assume that it was being told for MILLENNIA.

            Remember that in the 1800s, it was very much in vogue to assume an ancient or pagan origin for things. Even if those things were fairly modern and unremarkable. These were pretty romantic and imaginative people we’re talking about.

            The Tarot is a good example. It was widely believed (and still is, in some circles) that the Tarot cards are a preservation of secret knowledge, encrypted in images, handed down from generation to generation, going back to ancient Egyptian priests of Thoth and Hermes Trismegistus. Serious historians, though, have no reason to believe that the Tarot originated any later than late Middle Ages, or that it expressed anything other than a typical medieval Christian view of the cosmos and the social order, or that it was anything more than a card game at first. 19th century occultists (Aleister Crowley, e.g.) were fond of making similar claims about various rituals or symbols that were comparatively recent inventions.

            I think we should take any claims about pagan origins for stories, especially from the 19th century, with a grain of salt, unless we find contemporary sources (Latin or Greek, e.g.) describing them. We do have that sort of thing for many Germanic and Celtic beliefs and practices, but I don’t know of anything that has to do with hares and eggs and Eostre in the same bundle (or even any two of those). Nor do I know of archaeological evidence of such associations.

            If someone knows of that sort of thing, by all means bring it to the table; I’d be curious, and the evidence would be much more compelling than a 19th century interpretation of an oral tradition.

            Rosch points out that best early source for the name Eostre is Bede. But in fact, Bede is not just our best early source; he’s the ONLY early source. This has led to much debate about whether or not Eostre even was a goddess recognized by Germanic peoples (a debate not between diehard Christians and skeptics, but between speculators extrapolating from limited evidence and serious academics who want to be parsimonious and not read more into the evidence than it supports. In other words, between hunch-driven guessworkers who assert that there WAS a pagan goddess of hares and eggs and, you guessed it, SKEPTICS who don’t want to take any leaps of faith from the hard evidence).

            Philip A. Shaw, while counseling not to take any extreme position on Eostre’s historical attestation because of lack of evidence, believes that there are inscriptions validating the theories of a goddess named something like Eostre between 150 and 250 AD in Romano-Germanic areas, but reminds us that we don’t really know any attributes of the goddess from this. Nor do we get anything more from Bede. Even her association with spring, dawn, or other general concepts is speculative, and Grimm’s the only one I know who mentions Easter eggs in conjunction with her (which is very speculative and unsubstantiated by anything more than a hunch, as far as I can tell).

            I mention this as a side point because I still don’t think it has any bearing on the main issue I’m addressing, whether the Judeo-Christian Pascha was derived in any way from Germanic Easter practices—I think Rosch sort of implies it was, and it should be specified that it wasn’t.

  • catherinekylie

    why do the dates of easter change every year?

  • Alstonalston

    Easter is called a moveable feast because the date of Easter changes every year.
    Easter Sunday can fall on any date from 22 March to 25 April.The reason for this variation in the date of Easter is based on the lunar calendar (moon) rather than our more well-known solar one. Easter always falls on the first Sunday following the full Moon (the Paschal Full Moon) after 21 March. If the Full Moon falls on a Sunday then Easter is the next Sunday.The Easter Season begins on Easter Day and lasts 50 days, ending on Pentecost.Read More:http://bit.ly/1iCja9c