“The true meaning of Easter? Find it within and celebrate it.” – http://www.angelfire.com
(The following article originally posted on http://www.angelfire.com can be viewed in its entirety by clicking on the link below.)
What is the True Meaning of Easter?
The Easter we celebrate today is a curious blend of the religious and the secular; of paganism, Judaism, and Christianity.Some say the word Easter is derived from Eostre (also known as Ostara), an ancient Anglo-Saxon Goddess. She symbolized the rebirth of the day at dawn and the rebirth of life in the spring. The arrival of spring was celebrated all over the world long before the religious meaning became associated with Easter. As Christianity grew and spread throughout the world, it was common practice to adopt and modify existing non-Christian festivals and assimilate them into the Christian theology. Because Eostre was the goddess of spring and her symbolism dealt with renewal and rebirth, the Christian belief in the resurrection of Christ fit well with these themes.
In every other language but English and German, the name Easter is derived from the Hebrew word pesach for ‘he passed over’, so in Spanish and Italian Easter is Pascua, in French it is Paques, in Portugese it is Pascoa, and so on. Since church proclamation in 325AD, Easter has been celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the Vernal Equinox. This date was determined by noting that the Last Supper, as Christians came to know it, was actually a Passover seder, and Jesus’s resurrection occured on that Sunday. Passover occurs on the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan on the first full moon on or after the Equinox. A further connection to Passover, is the fact that it celebrates the angel of death passing over the houses where the doors were marked with the blood of a sacrificial lamb. Jesus is seen by Christians as the sacrificial lamb whose blood was shed so that they would have everlasting life.
If you lived in Egypt, you would have called him Osiris. The ancient Greeks named him Dionysus. He was named Attis in Asia Minor. In Syria, he was called Adonis. Bacchus was his name in ancient Italy. If you lived in Persia four thousand years ago, you would have called him Mithras.
Many religious historians believe that the death and resurrection legends were first associated with Attis (Osiris /Dionysus /Mithras, …) many centuries before the birth of Jesus. They were simply grafted onto the story of Jesus’ life in order to make Christian theology more acceptable to Pagans. Ancient Christians had another explanation; they claimed that Satan had created counterfeit deities in advance of the coming of Christ in order to confuse humanity. Modern-day Christians generally regard the Attis legend as being a Pagan myth of little value. They regard Jesus’ death and the story of his resurrection as being true, and unrelated to the earlier tradition.
The true meaning of Easter? Guess that depends on who you are, where you’re from, what you’ve been taught, ….
Easter symbols and traditions again seem to be a blending of Pagan and Christian symbology.
The egg and hare (bunny) were symbols of Ostara representing fertility and new life in the Spring. Since ancient times many cultures have associated eggs with the universe. They’ve been dyed, decorated and painted by the Romans, Gaul’s, Persians and the Chinese. They were used in ancient spring festivals to represent the rebirth of life.Dyed eggs also formed part of the rituals of the Babylonian mystery religions and in Egypt they were hung in temples as symbol of regenerative life.
As Christianity took hold the egg began to symbolize the rebirth of man rather than nature.A Polish folktale tells of the Virgin Mary giving eggs to soldiers at the cross while she pleaded with them to be merciful. As her tears dropped they spattered droplets on the eggs mottling them with a myriad of colors. Christians of the Near East used the egg to symbolize the tomb from which Jesus broke forth. They were often colored red to represent the blood of Christ. The Easter tradition of rolling eggs is said to symbolize the rolling away of the rock from Jesus’s tomb.
The bunny as an Easter symbol seems to have it’s origins in Germany, where it was first mentioned in German writings in the 1500s.In many parts of Germany the people believed the Easter bunny laid red eggs on Holy Thursday and multi-colored eggs the night before Easter Sunday. That’s where the first edible Easter Bunnies were made from pastry and sugar. When German settlers came to Pennsylvania Dutch country in the 1700’s they brought the custom with them. The children believed that if they were good the “Oschter Haws” would lay a nest of colored eggs.
The Easter basket originates from the ancient Catholic custom of taking the food for Easter dinner to mass to be blessed. This, too, mirrored the even more ancient ritual of bringing the first crops and seedlings to the temple to insure a good growing season. This practice, combined with the “rabbit’s nest” of the Pennsylvania Dutch has evolved in the brightly colored containers filled with sweets, toys and the like left for children on Easter morning by the Easter Bunny.
Easter lilies are sometimes called the “white-robed apostles of hope,” because they were reportedly found growing in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus’ sweat fell to the ground in his final hours. These same flowers have been long revered by Pagans of many lands as fertility symbols.
Hot Cross Buns: At the feast of Eostre, the Saxon fertility Goddess, an ox was sacrificed. The ox’s horns became a symbol for the feast. They were carved into the ritual bread. Thus originated “hot cross buns”. The word “buns” is derived from the Saxon word “boun” which means “sacred ox.” Later, the symbol of a symmetrical cross was used to decorate the buns; the cross represented the moon, the heavenly body associated with the Goddess, and its four quarters. Still later, the cross was symbolic of the cross of the crucifiction.
Now this is my favorite! I’ve read in Sweden, the children dress up like witches and put Easter greetings into the mailboxes of their friends. Firecrackers are set off to scare away real witches. Don’t have a clue how Holloween and Easter seem to have meshed here, but the point of this whole thing is, joy. Joy in life. If that comes with bunnies and colored eggs, or witch costumes or whatever, who cares? If someone else celebrates something different than you, celebrate their joy in living, however it’s expressed.
I personally don’t care if Jesus was born on Dec. 25th or if he really died and was resurrected as a historical figure at Eastertime. It’s the spirit of rebirth, of continual life, of the love and message of Jesus that means more than whether any of this is historically true or not. If it is for you, God bless you, and if it’s not, God bless you, or Buddha bless you, or Bubba bless you, or whatever. Quite frankly I think the’Holy Land’ could use a good easter egg hunt these days – rolling a few easter eggs down the hill instead of exploding themselves in hate and intolerence. We all could. And quite frankly, I have a good feeling that Jesus would love chocolate easter bunnies as much as he loved dancing at weddings and turning water into wine. This whole world is so bogged down in dogma and needing everyone else to believe exactly like we do, that we miss the essence, the meaning inherent in all beliefs. And we’re killing each other in the process.
The true meaning of Easter? Find it within and celebrate it. Celebrate all expressions of joy however they manifest. Even if Easter has no meaning to you at all– just another day. Another day is the most beautiful of miracles. Celebrate every minute of it however you feel called to, and allow and rejoice in others however they feel called to celebrate theirs.