Saturday, March 22, 2008

Easter: the Bunny, the Egg, the Christ

It would be perfectly normal for one to wonder about the traditions of Easter. I mean there just isn't an easy way to get from the Risen Savior to bunnies and colored eggs.

As with many Christian holidays, celebrations were made to coincide with pagan celebrations. Whether it was a clandestine way to slip in a Christian celebration and avoid persecution or to quietly introduce the Christian message into a pagan culture; either way it has given us mixed traditions today.

The celebration that most closely aligned itself with the time of year that Christians celebrated the resurrection of Jesus was the Saxon celebration of their spring goddess Eastre. Her earthly form was that of a rabbit and as the goddess of spring, she also was a goddess of fertility and offspring. The giving of eggs also predates the Christian holiday and eggs were a given as a springtime gift symbolizing rebirth. They were often wrapped in gold leaf or decorated with jewels and ornamentation. Poorer families would boil them with flower petals to give them color.

Until the early fourth century, the resurrection of our Savior didn't have a regular date set aside. Constantine's Council of Nicaea (325 A.D.) set the date to the first Sunday after the first full moon of spring. While the actual first day of spring may vary, for the church spring always begins on the 21st of March. Easter will always fall between March 22 and April 25.

It seems to me that it would have made more sense to tie it to the Jewish celebration of The Passover. After all, Jesus was in Jerusalem for the Passover when He was arrested, tried and crucified. It's funny how such an important celebration has its date and traditions based on such meaningless things. This year's Easter date misses the beginning of Passover (the fifteenth day of the month of Nissan on the Hebrew calendar) by a month.

Tonight is our musical celebration at Hopedale. I'm really looking forward to listening to our choir sing of the resurrection of Jesus. I truly hope that this weekend will find you celebrating the Risen Lord.



Kevin said...

Thanks for the lesson.

Amanda said...

Happy Easter John. I always wondered why there were eggs at Easter.