By Pastor William J. T. Patterson San Clair Missionary Baptist Church
The world is adorned with pastel colors and freshly bloomed flowers. There are new suits and frilly dresses. Cute speeches memorized and delivered with such joy and pride. Little kids carrying baskets filled with candy and brightly colored eggs that were found hidden high and low placed by a larger than life bunny rabbit.
As a kid, I blindly followed the happenings of Easter Sunday riddled with traditions that can be traced back thousands of years before Jesus ever walked the streets of Nazareth in the flesh. I had no idea why we were doing things as a family or as a church. Unfortunately, I found out that neither my family, nor my church family had any idea either. Even after becoming a minister and later a pastor, I didn’t have questions because I didn’t know there were questions to be asked.
About seven years ago, I decided to do research on Easter for a different type of Easter sermon. I was totally blown away by the real history of Easter. The term Easter is specific just to the holiday. I was crushed to find its origin is not rooted in the Resurrection of Jesus.
There are actually two historical inspirations for the Easter we traditionally observe. The German Ostern and the Babylonian/Assyrian Ishtar (pronounced Easter) serve as the programmatic thrust to the traditions related to modern day Easter.
The German influence stems from the celebration of spring, new life, fertility, and light. The tradition of hiding egg was introduced to Germany via the protestant reformer Martin Luther in the 16th century. The Men would hide eggs and the women and children would find them. This later developed during the mid 1800s into eggs being hidden by a “rabbit” and adults would watch kids hunt and search for the hidden eggs. Christianity stretched to connect the eggs to traditions. However, the truth is eggs and rabbits were both just symbols of fertility.
The Babylonian/Assyrian influence is even more disturbing to the ears of Christian. Ishtar was the goddess of love, sex, war, and storms. She was known as the protector of prostitutes in the pagan temples of old. Ishtar was worshiped as a fertility goddess. Fertility is the basis for the egg. Spring is the time of new life and renewal. The act reproduction is at the seed of the egg becoming absorbed into modern Easter traditions.
Peter Cottontail??? The Easter Bunny is a traditional symbol that sets the celebratory mood for parents and kids. The bunny has become as prolific as Santa Claus in malls as parents wait in line with their kids for their opportunity to take a memorable photograph with the Easter Bunny. How did the bunny hop its way into the Easter tradition? The rabbit is extremely proficient in the area of reproduction. This is why the rabbit was coupled with the egg. Two symbols representing
Successful reproduction were meshed together. As we give our kids plush stuffed bunny rabbits, colorful baskets, and decorative eggs, remember these are all symbols celebrating procreation (sex).
Even though many will read this article laced with historical truth, we will blindly and mindlessly carry out traditions with clear pagan roots in the name of Christianity. Churches decorate social halls and sanctuaries with rabbits and baskets. They also have Easter egg hunts all in the name of fun and celebration.
I celebrate Resurrection Sunday!! The Death, Burial, and Resurrection grips my heart and solidifies my salvation in truth and love. Early Christian leaders connected the moveable date of Resurrection Sunday to preexisting celebrations and traditions to entice conversion to Christianity. The Word of God says, Wherefore come out from among them and be ye separate, Second Corinthians 6:17. We do not have to compromise the word of God to gain popularity to add to the church. The Apostle did not use gimmicks, however when they preached truth, Acts 2:41 records about 3,000 were added to the church in one day.
Please study to know what it is we celebrate and why. Never allow the world to diminish the true meaning of such a sacred event. He rose from the dead just like He said He would. An empty tomb is still there today to prove our Savior lives!