I heard the words that Jesus rose on the third day and died for our sins, but I was more interested in a pet, dyed eggs and rising out of bed for our family’s annual Easter egg hunt.
As I remember it, the weather was always bright blue skies and sunny days around this special day. Dad bought us the cutest red, green and blue dyed baby chicks to play with in our huge backyard. Although rabbits were more closely linked to Easter, we never got a rabbit and I never knew why.
The excitement of an Easter egg hunt and baby chicks was heightened when our female cousins and their family came to the house after church on Easter Sunday. The three girls were about the same ages as me and my two older brothers. I always felt a bit “twitterpated” like Bambi when I was in their company — maybe it was because they smelled so nice and dressed so pretty.
The anticipation of our Easter egg hunt reached its peak when my dad and my uncle placed a nickel, dime, quarter or 50 cents under every hidden egg. Our parents shouted: “Ready, set ... go!” and watched us dash out of the house and race in search of those Easter eggs!
An hour later, we were all laughing and peeling eggs while counting our coins to see who had the most. As I peeled my colorful eggs, sprinkling salt and pepper on them, I must admit, I never once thought of Jesus in those fun-filled moments.
It was only as a teenager that I started to wonder what did those Easter eggs and bunny rabbits have to do with the resurrection of my Lord, Jesus Christ? One day I decided to find out. As I asked around I was directed to certain books.
For example I was surprised to read a quote from Robert J. Myer’s book “Celebrations,” which stated, “Eggs were said to be dyed and eaten at the spring festivals in ancient Egypt, Persia, Greece and Rome. The Persians of that time gave eggs as gifts at the vernal equinox.”
The Catholic Encyclopedia said, “A great many pagan customs, celebrating the return of spring, gravitated to Easter. The egg is the emblem of the germinating life of early spring. ... The rabbit is a pagan symbol and has always been an emblem of fertility.”
What?? If these emblems are pagan, how did they attach themselves to Jesus Christ, I wondered? I knew Jesus said he is “the way, the truth and the life.” — John 14:6. He also said true worshippers must worship God “in spirit and truth.” — John 4:24. These pagan customs were not the truth. They were fun. But not based on Bible truth.
So what was the truth? The Westminster Dictionary of the Bible states Easter was “originally the spring festival in honor of the goddess of light and spring known in Anglo-Saxons as Eastre. As early as the eighth century the name was transferred to the Christian festival designated to celebrate the resurrection of Christ.”
That really took the “egg-citement” out of Easter for me. To think that my parents had unwittingly been mixing the resurrection of Christ with pagan customs that honored a false goddess named Eastre was a shock to my naive system.
When my mother found out, she discontinued celebrating Easter with its pagan customs. My father did not care. To him Easter was Easter and that was that. I was an inquisitive teenager and really wanted to know how this fusion of pagan religion into Christianity happened. I finally learned what many scholars and theologians already knew.
The book “Curiosities of Popular Customs,” said “It was the invariable policy of the early Church to give a Christian significance to such pagan ceremonies as could not be rooted out. In the case of Easter the conversion was peculiarly easy.
“Joy at the rising of the natural sun, and at the awakening of nature from the death of winter, became joy at the rising of the sun of righteousness at the resurrection of Christ from the grave.”
When I was telling my friends about this shocking discovery, someone told me the Bible says a little leaven ferments the whole lump and the earliest Christians did not celebrate Easter at all. That really surprised me! So I researched some more.
The Encyclopedia Britannica said, “There is no indication of the observance of the Easter festival in the New Testament, or in the writings of the apostolic Fathers. The sanctity of special times was an idea absent from the minds of the first Christians.”
Later, someone showed me the word “Easter” at Acts 12:4 in the King James Version of the Bible. This was discovered to be an erroneous translation of the Greek word for “Passover” and was corrected in the New King James Version and other translations of the Bible. I admit I was shocked.
Still, I confess I was surprised at how little me and my family knew about the true origin of Easter. As I got older I started to wonder where would Jesus stand on this popular celebration today? Is there any concerns about God accepting worship that is mixed with pagan customs? Where do you stand?
Whatever you decide — be assured that siding with the truth is the best way to live a happier life.