Valdosta Daily Times

Local News

April 7, 2012

Stories behind ‘The Greatest Story Ever Told’

VALDOSTA — Christ comes from the Greek word, “Christos,” meaning “the anointed one.”

Easter is this weekend and it is the celebration of Christ rising from the dead on two days after the Crucifixion and ascending to Heaven. “For God so loved the world,” as John 3:16 promises in the New King James Version, “that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

Yet, the term “Easter” is derived from a pagan ritual of the Saxons once held at the start of spring to honor Eastre, the goddess of dawn. Since Christianity’s celebration of the Resurrection was held at approximately the same time of year, the church adopted the pagan Easter name to help convert the tribes of England to Christianity. As Christianity spread from the Middle East to Rome then throughout Europe, the religion has often adopted the overtaken pagan rituals, customs and dates (from the Christmas tree to the timing of the Christmas celebration) to more easily convert past pagans and protect themselves.

“It would have been suicide for the very early Christian converts to celebrate their holy days with observances that did not coincide with celebrations that already existed,” according to wilstar.com. “To save lives, the missionaries cleverly decided to spread their religious message slowly throughout the populations by allowing them to continue to celebrate pagan feasts, but to do so in a Christian manner.”

 

In trying to placate pagans while simultaneously converting them, the Easter bunny hopped onto the scene. One may think the Easter Bunny is part of a more recent trend to commercialize holidays, but it is not. Like Santa Claus, which is just a childlike way to say St. Nicholas, the Easter bunny’s connections to the Resurrection celebration are as old as the name Easter. For the pagan goddess Eastre’s symbol was the rabbit. Immigrant Germans are credited or blamed, depending on your viewpoint, with bringing the Easter bunny tradition to America.

 

Why does the Easter bunny bring Easter eggs? Well, this question is similar to the old which came first, the chicken or the egg routine; however, here, the egg came before Easter and the Resurrection, according to many scholars. Many ancient societies prior to Christianity made a habit or ritual of trading eggs in the spring.

Swapping eggs was viewed as a sign of goodwill and a blessing of prosperity on a neighbor and his home, fields, and family. Many cultures viewed the egg as a symbol of rebirth to coincide with the rebirth of spring. Like adding a bow to the wrapping of a present, many of these ancient populations wrapped the eggs in leaves or boiled them with plants and flowers to color the shell.

As with many of its traditions, Christianity assimilated the egg custom, too.

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