A crowd gathered around Golgotha in the hills outside Jerusalem, despite the midday darkness. Suddenly, the earth shook, the crowd gasped, and Jesus “gave up the ghost.”
Three days later, Jesus was “born again” in a cave, becoming the first born from the dead, giving new life to all who believe on Him and trust Him for their salvation. Two thousand years later we still celebrate the occasion of the resurrection of Christ. We call it Easter. In Acts 12:4, the Hebrew word for Passover is also translated “Easter” in the King James Version of the Holy Bible.
The origin of the word “Easter is lost. We know that the word is Anglo-Saxon, but its source could have come from a number of places. One theory is that the word came from the name of Eostra (or Eastra), the Teutonic goddess of dawn, spring, and fertility. Or, it could be a misinterpretation of several words, such as ostin (which means “east”) or the word used for the white garments worn by new Christians for baptism. The English word “Easter” could even have derived its origin from an ancient word that was used to refer to the dawn.
And the rabbit with the eggs? We just don’t know for sure about that either. Traditionally, eggs could not be eaten during Lent. Perhaps eggs with colorful decorations eventually became part of the festivities of Easter, when eggs could once again be eaten. Eggs are a symbol of “new life” and spring, and their colors could represent the spring lights or even be reminiscent of the northern lights that herald the arrival of spring.
Folklore exists explaining the origin of the Easter Bunny and his association to Easter eggs. A woman was said to have placed colored eggs in a nst as a surprise for her children. When the children went to find the eggs, they saw a rabbit leaving the nest and thought the rabbit had brought them. This has been extended to the Easter basket, which is full of all sorts of goodies, supposedly delivered by the Easter Bunny. Rabbits are also symbolic of life, fertility, and spring.
Many other things are used in the Easter celebration to represent “New life” and the spring season: flowers, chickens, lambs… Many believe that most Easter traditions, like the name itself, derives from paganism.
Could it be that, as Christians, we involve pagan practices in celebrating our “new life” and the resurrection of our Lord? Perhaps. Or perhaps God was smart enough to plan this whole thing out. Maybe He deliberately arranged the crucifixion and the resurrection of His only begotten Son to coincide with the Passover and and the arrival of spring. Maybe the “new life” of our Lord was choreographed to coincide with the new life celebrations of other cultures. And just maybe, God worked it out so that no matter who you are, where you live, or what you believe, you can understand and celebrate the “new life” God has provided for us through our Lord Jesus Christ’s resurrection.