“Easter” was taken from “Eastre”. She was the goddess worshipped by the Saxon peoples of Northern Europe. They held festivals every year to celebrate the Spring Equinox—the one time during the spring when the day and the night are of equal length. The festivals were believed to ensure the fertility of both the land and its people.
In ancient times, those of the Jewish faith celebrated Passover around this same time of the year. The Passover feast commemorated the Israelite captivity in Egypt under the cruel hand of the pharaoh. The last plague that God sent on the land was that of the death of every firstborn. Blood on the doorposts of Israelite households spared them as the Angel of Death spread through the land.
Christians decided to celebrate what we now know as Easter at this time also. Early followers were persecuted even after Jesus’ crucifixion. As a result, they held their religious observances to coincide with the pagan holidays. They called their remembrance, Easter—a derivative of Eastre. The idea behind the two occasions is different, but they share common symbols and traditions that people still use today.
The Easter egg- The use of eggs in celebration existed long before our modern day observance. Eggs were given and received as symbols of rebirth. Today, eggs are decorated on Easter and hidden for children to find.
The Easter bunny- The rabbit was the symbol of Eastre, the Saxon goddess. The idea of the rabbit as a part of Christian tradition was introduced in colonial days by the Germans. Children are taught that the Easter Bunny brings treats on the night before Easter, much like Santa Claus during Christmas.
The Cross- The symbol of the cross has been associated with Christianity and Easter since the first centuries after Jesus’ death. The cross was a symbol of cruelty throughout the Roman Empire. Today, those who practice Christianity view it as a badge of courage and salvation.
Now you know the origins of the holiday of Easter. Will this knowledge change anything about your observance? Only you can decide if the history of the symbols is more important than the reason you celebrate it today.