Easter has passed us by. While everyone at ENC took part in some type of celebration, not everyone may know the history behind this ancient, widely celebrated day.
Debate circulates around whether the name of Easter is a derivative of the Teutonic goddess of fertility and spring, Eostre, from Anglo-Saxon mythology. The possibility of pagan roots in this undoubtedly Christian holiday is not that uncharacteristic for the time, nor would it be the only holiday to have secular origins. However, the more common understanding is that the term Easter is actually an error of translation. “Pascha” is the Latin word for Passover, the Jewish festival that was celebrated by Jesus before his crucifixion, and interestingly enough, Easter is known as “Pascua” and “Paques” in Spanish and French respectively. Regardless, Easter as celebrated in the west is inextricably linked to Passover.
On the Christian church calendar, Easter follows the season of Lent in which Christians abstain from an activity or practice in remembrance of Jesus’ 40-day journey in the wilderness. The week before Easter is called Holy week, and it includes the sorrowful Maundy Thursday service which commemorates the Last Supper; Good Friday believers read through and contemplate the crucifixion of Christ; Resurrection Day (or Easter) is when believers rejoice in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
However, for secular society, Easter is a time for celebrating new life with friends and family—usually with plenty of chocolate and jelly beans. Undeniably, cultural and commercial practices have influenced this side of Easter. Perhaps the most notable character in western celebratory practices is the Easter Bunny. What’s interesting about the inclusion of bunnies, besides their cute nature, is that bunnies are the offspring of rabbits—a creature long associated with incredible fertility rates. Spring, a time when the whole world experiences a surge in fertility in the plant and animal kingdom, is a time when humanity seeks such fertility as well.
Easter, it seems, has something for faith-based and secular societies, and is especially celebratory for those with a liturgical heart and a sweet tooth to boot.