It was some 1,981 years ago today when eyewitnesses claimed to have seen Jesus of Nazareth, resurrected from the dead. His death and resurrection sparked the fastest-growing religious movement ever seen in human history. To this day, pilgrims from around the world gather in Jerusalem at the site where Christians believe Jesus was unjustly executed and buried, then raised back to life.
In his book “Celebrations,” Robert J. Myers said, “No holy day or festival in the Christian year can compare in importance with Easter Sunday.”
In her book “Easter and Its Customs,” Christina Hole wrote, “Easter Day, the Feast of the Resurrection of Our Lord, is the greatest of all the festivals of the Christian Church.”
In celebration of Easter, millions of families flock to churches around the globe to remember what one man gave on behalf of the world. Men, women and children sit, listen and are reminded of the significance of the occasion as well as the basis for their beliefs. Many children are also treated to a great Easter egg hunt while families take part in many of the early traditions associated with Easter. Dyed Easter eggs, pet rabbits, new outfits and sweet treats are some of the traditions many families enjoy during the celebration of the resurrection of Christ.
In tracing the source of such early customs connected with Easter, Alan W. Watts, an Episcopal chaplain, in his book “Easter — It’s Story and Meaning,” revealed, “When a religion such as Christianity comes to a people from outside, it adopts and ‘baptizes’ some of the folk customs which derive from older religions.”
The Catholic Encyclopedia admits, “A great many pagan customs, celebrating the return of spring, gravitated to Easter. The egg is the emblem of the germinating life of early spring. The rabbit is a pagan symbol and has always been an emblem of fertility.”
Robert J. Myer’s book “Celebrations,” also stated, “Eggs were said to be dyed and eaten at the spring festivals in ancient Egypt, Persia, Greece and Rome. The Persians of that time gave eggs as gifts at the vernal equinox.”
The Westminster Dictionary of the Bible states Easter was “originally the spring festival in honor of the goddess of light and spring known in Anglo-Saxons as Eastre. As early as the eighth century the name was transferred to the Christian festival designated to celebrate the resurrection of Christ.”
Regarding the earliest tradition of getting new Easter outfits, “The Giant Book of Superstitions” explained, “It was considered discourteous and therefore bad luck to greet the Scandinavian goddess of Spring, or Eastre, in anything but fresh garb.”
According to the book “Curiosities of Popular Customs” ... “It was the invariable policy of the early Church to give a Christian significance to such pagan ceremonies as could not be rooted out. In the case of Easter the conversion was peculiarly easy. Joy at the rising of the natural sun, and at the awakening of nature from the death of winter, became joy at the rising of the Sun of righteousness, at the resurrection of Christ from the grave.”
Easter is also celebrated differently by people in various lands. In Florence, Italy, for example, Easter is celebrated with the explosion of a huge, decorated cart that is dragged through Florence by white oxen until it reaches the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower in Florence’s historic center. Following Mass, the Archbishop sends a dove-shaped rocket into the cart, igniting the fireworks held in the cart. This is followed by a parade in medieval costumes. In Scotland and Northern Ireland, the tradition of rolling decorated eggs down steep hills is still observed.
The Encyclopedia Britannica said, “There is no indication of the observance of the Easter festival in the New Testament, or in the writings of the apostolic Fathers. The sanctity of special times was an idea absent from the minds of the first Christians.”
Because of Easter’s connection to certain pagan customs, not all who believe in the resurrection of Christ celebrate “Easter.”