The Origins of Easter

A Brief History of Easter

Easter is the holiday that has come to epitomize the spring season. Much like the season of spring, Easter plays on the themes of life and things coming back. That may seem coincidental. However, if history has taught us anything about holidays and seasons, it’s that more often than not there is actually a historical context to the correlation between the two.


Like other word origins lost to time, the history of the word “Easter” remains unclear. Many experts think it derives from the Old English word “ēastre” or “ēastan,” which means “east” or “dawn.” The first use of the word “Easter” (in the modern context) traces back to the 8th century. It referred to the Christian holiday celebrating Christ’s resurrection.
In contrast, other scholars believe that the word “Easter” comes from Eostre, the pagan goddess of spring and fertility. This theory is supported by symbols associated with Easter, such as eggs and rabbits, being used in pagan celebrations of the spring equinox.

Easter and Paganism

An artistic representation of Eostre, goddess of fertility.

Easter’s roots in paganism celebrate the spring equinox. It was originally a fertility festival honoring the goddess Eostre. The timing of the festival coincided with the Vernal Equinox, a time of renewal and rebirth. Pagans celebrated the holiday by feasting, dancing, and exchanging brightly colored eggs.
The pagans also considered the spring equinox to be a time of balance between light and dark, as well as a time of great power and magic. The Easter festival honored the earth and its cycles and celebrated the return of spring. Today pagan customs attached to Easter, such as egg decorating and the Easter bunny.

Easter and Christianity

One of the most important days on the Christian calendar, Easter celebrates commemorating Christ’s resurrection. According to the Bible, Jesus was crucified on a Friday, now known as Good Friday. Three days later, on Sunday, he rose from the dead, marking the celebration of Easter Sunday. Christians see the resurrection of Jesus as a triumph over death and a confirmation of his divinity. It acts as a central tenet of the Christian faith.
Christians around the world celebrate Easter with a variety of customs and traditions. Many churches, mark Easter with special services and the singing of hymns. For Catholics, Lent marks the weeks leading up to Easter. It is a period of fasting, prayer, and reflection.

Easter and Non-Secular

Chocolate bunny

While Easter is a Christian holiday, many non-Christians celebrate it non-secularly. Decorating eggs, and indulging in chocolate bunnies and marshmallow Peeps, are things enjoyed by both secular and non. In general, people used the holiday as an excuse for getting together and having a meal.

Easter Customs

Why the Eggs?

A modern example of painted eggs.

As mentioned above, pagans celebrated the spring equinox by painting brightly colored eggs. The Pagans used the eggs in fertility rituals symbolizing new life.
The Christian practice of decorating eggs for Easter likely originated in medieval Europe. People painted eggs with bright colors and designs. They then gave the eggs as gifts to friends and family members. Today, many people still decorate eggs for Easter, and the tradition now includes the use of plastic and chocolate eggs as well.

That Wascawy Wabbit!

Another popular symbol of Easter is the Easter bunny, whose origins date back to German folklore. The story goes that a goddess named Eostre transformed a bird into a hare, and the hare then laid eggs as a symbol of new life. Later, German immigrants brought the tradition of the Easter bunny to America in the 18th century.


In conclusion, the history of Easter is complex and multifaceted. While it has its roots in pagan celebrations of the spring equinox, it has evolved over time to become a significant religious holiday for Christians worldwide. However, the secular traditions of Easter, such as egg decorating and the Easter bunny, remain enjoyed by people of all faiths and backgrounds.

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