The Origins of Easter Traditions and Symbols

What Christian Teens Should Know Before They Celebrate

Many Christian teens celebrate Easter each year with little thought to the origins of certain traditions. While some critics of Christianity point to the pagan history of many Easter traditions, many have been made into purely Christian or benign celebrations.  With Easter being one of the biggest Christian holidays of the year, it helps to understand where certain Easter symbols and traditions came from and why they matter.

The Controversy Over Some Traditions

The people of God have a long history of adopting commonly used symbols, and this appropriation has been going on since the time of Abraham and Moses. Many Christians believe that, even if the origin of a symbol doesn't have Judeo-Christian roots, it does not take away from using those traditions to celebrate our faith.  Instead, using these symbols may even enhance our understanding of why we celebrate certain holidays or use certain symbols to demonstrate our faith in the first place. However, there are also some Christian critics that believe taking part in many of these traditions can lead people away from true faith, because they began in faiths or traditions that actually opposed Christianity and denied God.

How Easter Got Its Name

No one is fully sure of how Easter came to be called "Easter." However, a 7th century English scholar, Bede, did claim that Easter is a derived from the name of the Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre (associated with Spring and fertility).

When Easter is Celebrated

Easter is a Christian holiday, and it is always celebrated around the Jewish Passover. In the Bible, the Last Supper, or Lord's Supper, was part of that Passover celebration. Though the events that precipitated the two holidays are closely linked in the New Testament, they usually do not fall in that order on our modern calendars.

This is because two different calculations are used to determine the dates for Passover and Easter.  Some also say that Easter was moved to coincide with the Anglo-Saxon celebration of Eostre, the Germanic goddess of Spring.

Easter Bunny

While much of the legend surrounding the Easter bunny come from modern day stories like Peter Cottontail, the use of a hare or rabbit goes back to Celtic paganism. The hare, or rabbit, was a symbol of new life to pagans, so it was adopted by early Christians to represent the new life in Christ. The early use of the bunny as a symbol of easter occurred in German writings during the 1500s.  The Gremans used the symbol of the bunny as a representation of the goddess of spring or renewal, Eostre.

Easter Eggs

The egg has a long history of being part of creation theories and celebrations. The Easter egg is not a Christian tradition, but instead it is believed that they came from Druidic celebrations of Spring. Dyed eggs were also used by Egyptians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans during spring festivals. Christians adopted the eggs and used them to represent rebirth and resurrection.

What Do We Do with These Symbols?

Yes, much of the history and symbols of Easter didn't get their roots in the resurrection, which is what we celebrate each Easter.

 However, that doesn't mean they don't remind us of why we celebrate the holiday.  God has a way of using non-traditional means to influence us, and if these symbols get us to focus on God, to embrace Jesus, then God is using them in our lives.