Are the Origins of Easter in Paganism?

Just as around Christmas time you are likely to see a number of articles claiming that the origins of Christmas are in the celebration of a pagan sun-god related to the Winter solstice, so at Easter time you tend to see a number of articles claiming that the origins of Easter are in the celebration of a pagan fertility goddess, related to the Spring equinox.

Why is this important? It’s important because those who are enemies of the Christian faith use this as an attempt to undermine the credibility of Christianity. If they can convince the naive that Christianity is really rooted in paganism, than they may convince some that events central to Christian faith, such as the Incarnation and the Resurrection, lack credibility and are unworthy of our faith. But, attacks on the true origins of Christmas and Easter come not only from non-believers. Even those in some Christian traditions make these claims, as an attempt to discredit the celebration of these holy days and, thus, discredit those Christian traditions for which these celebrations represent an important part of their liturgical calendars.

Why should these claims be rejected? For two reasons: first, they have no basis in the historical record. There really is no support for the claim that Christmas or Easter are of pagan origin. I addressed the matter related to Christmas in a post last December that you can read here. Second: what difference does it make? As I said in my post on Christmas, since Christ is the Creator and Lord of history, all days belong to Him. As well, Christ came to redeem all people, and to redeem all things, whether of heaven or earth (Col. 1:20). If these days were set aside for the celebration of pagan gods, Christ can redeem them and make of them celebrations of Himself and His mission to reconcile all things to Himself. After all, He does the same thing which each of us, redeeming us and reconciling us to Himself!

Jimmy Akin is a Catholic apologist who is an excellent source for questions about the Catholic faith. In this article and in the video below he does a great job of explaining both the origins of the date for Easter (that have nothing to do with the spring equinox) and the origins of the name “Easter” (that have little to do with the name of a pagan goddess). He even touches on the claim that eggs, rabbits, chicks, etc …, being fertility symbols, are proof positive that Easter’s origins are in the fertility rites of paganism.

Since Christ was crucified and raised during the Jewish Passover, the origin of the date of Easter is in the celebration of the Jewish Passover. The Jewish calendar is a lunar calendar, so each month begins with the new moon. The full moon, then, would fall on the fourteenth day of each month. The fourteenth day of the month of Nisan is the day on which the Jews celebrate Passover. Because this is also the month in which the Spring equinox occurs, Passover is always celebrated on the first full moon after the Spring equinox, March 21. Because Christ was raised on the Sunday during Passover, the First Council of Nicaea, in AD 325, dictated that the Resurrection would be celebrated on the first Sunday following the beginning of Passover. Since Passover is always celebrated after the first full moon following the Spring equinox, Easter is always celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the Spring equinox. But, this is because the Christians properly chose to celebrate the Resurrection according to its historical connection with Passover, and not because of any connection with pagan celebrations related to the Spring equinox.

You can read Akin’s article and watch his video for the answers to the origins of the name “Easter” and why so-called fertility symbols are associated with Easter.



Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.

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