Reposted from Wilstar
As with almost all "Christian" holidays, Easter
has been secularized and commercialized. The dichotomous nature of Easter and
its symbols, however, is not necessarily a modern fabrication.
Since its conception as a holy celebration in the second century, Easter has
had its non-religious side. In fact, Easter was originally a pagan festival.
The ancient Saxons celebrated the return of spring with an uproarious festival
commemorating their goddess of offspring and of springtime, Eastre. When the
second-century Christian missionaries encountered the tribes of the north with
their pagan celebrations, they attempted to convert them to Christianity. They
did so, however, in a clandestine manner.
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. 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.
As it happened, the pagan festival of Eastre occurred at the same time of year
as the Christian observance of the Resurrection of Christ. It made sense,
therefore, to alter the festival itself, to make it a Christian celebration as
converts were slowly won over. The early name, Eastre, was eventually changed
to its modern spelling, Easter.
The Date of Easter
Prior to A.D. 325, Easter was variously celebrated on different days of the
week, including Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. In that year, the Council of
Nicaea was convened by emperor Constantine. It issued the Easter Rule which
states that Easter shall be celebrated on the first Sunday that occurs after
the first full moon on or after the vernal equinox. However, a caveat must be
introduced here. The "full moon" in the rule is the ecclesiastical
full moon, which is defined as the fourteenth day of a tabular lunation, where
day 1 corresponds to the ecclesiastical New Moon. It does not always occur on
the same date as the astronomical full moon. The ecclesiastical "vernal
equinox" is always on March 21.
Therefore, Easter must be celebrated on a Sunday between the dates of March 22
and April 25.
The Cross is the symbol of the Crucifixion, as opposed to the Resurrection.
However, at the Council of Nicaea, in A.D. 325, Constantine decreed that the
Cross was the official symbol of Christianity. The Cross is not only a symbol
of Easter, but it is more widely used, especially by the Catholic Church, as a
year-round symbol of their faith.
The Easter Bunny
The Easter Bunny is not a modern invention. The symbol originated with the
pagan festival of Eastre. The goddess, Eastre, was worshipped by the
Anglo-Saxons through her earthly symbol, the rabbit.
The Germans brought the symbol of the Easter rabbit to America. It was widely
ignored by other Christians until shortly after the Civil War. In fact, Easter
itself was not widely celebrated in America until after that time.
The Easter Egg
As with the Easter Bunny and the holiday itself, the Easter Egg predates the
Christian holiday of Easter. The exchange of eggs in the springtime is a custom
that was centuries old when Easter was first celebrated by Christians.
From the earliest times, the egg was a symbol of rebirth in most cultures. Eggs
were often wrapped in gold leaf or, if you were a peasant, colored brightly by
boiling them with the leaves or petals of certain flowers.
Today, children hunt colored eggs and place them in Easter baskets along with
the modern version of real Easter eggs - those made of plastic or chocolate