Question: "What are the origins of Easter?"
Answer: The origins of Easter are rooted in European traditions. The name Easter comes from a pagan figure called Eastre (or Eostre) who was celebrated as the goddess of spring by the Saxons of Northern Europe. A festival called Eastre was held during the spring equinox by these people to honor her. The goddess Eastre’s earthly symbol was the rabbit, which was also known as a symbol of fertility. Originally, there were some very pagan (and sometimes utterly evil) practices that went along with the celebration. Today, Easter is almost a completely commercialized holiday, with all the focus on Easter eggs and the Easter bunny being remnants of the goddess worship.
In the Christian faith, Easter has come to mean the celebration of the resurrection of Christ three days after His crucifixion. It is the oldest Christian holiday and the most important day of the church year because of the significance of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the events upon which Christianity is based. Easter Sunday is preceded by the season of Lent, a 40-day period of fasting and repentance culminating in Holy Week and followed by a 50-day Easter season that stretches from Easter to Pentecost.
Because of the commercialization and pagan origins of Easter, many churches prefer to refer to it as “Resurrection Sunday.” The rationale is the more we focus on Christ and the less we focus on the pagan holiday, the better. As previously mentioned, the resurrection of Christ is the central theme of Christianity. Paul says that without this, our faith is futile (1 Corinthians 15:17). What more wonderful reason could we have to celebrate! What is important is the true reason behind our celebration, which is that Christ was resurrected from the dead, making it possible for us to have eternal life (Romans 6:4)!
Should we celebrate Easter or allow our children to go on Easter eggs hunts? This is a question both parents and church leaders struggle with. There is nothing essentially evil about painting and hiding eggs and having children search for them. What is important is our focus. If our focus is on Christ and not the eggs, our children will understand that the eggs are just a game. Children can participate in an Easter egg hunt as long as the true meaning of the day is explained and emphasized, but ultimately this must be left up to the discretion of parents.