What Is the True Meaning of Easter? Why Is it Celebrated? (2023)

What is Easter? Without a doubt one of the most important celebrations in the Christian calendar, Easter is a holiday that celebrates the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. After his crucifixion, death, and burial, three days later, He rose from the grave. By this, He conquered death and redeemed us from sin.

As we'll explore in this article, the Easter holy day did coincide with some pagan holidays. Because the church didn't celebrate Easter until a certain point, owing to the persecution the church experienced for the first few centuries, the Christian creation of the holiday did happen around the same time as another pagan celebration was in full swing. Nevertheless, on this holiday, we strive to celebrate God's victory over the grave. In this article, we'll explore the meaning of the word Easter, pagan associations of the holiday, and what the holiday means for Christians today.

Definition of “Easter”

According to dictionary.com, Easter is “an annual Christian festival in commemoration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, observed on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox, as calculated according to tables based in Western churches on the Gregorian calendar and in Orthodox churches on the Julian calendar. Also called Easter Sunday. the day on which this festival is celebrated.”

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia gives the biblical references of "Easter" stating,

"The word does not properly occur in Scripture, although the King James Version has it in Acts 12:4 where it stands for Passover, as it is rightly rendered in the Revised Version (British and American). There is no trace of Easter celebration in the New Testament, though some would see an intimation of it in 1 Corinthians 5:7. The Jewish Christians in the early church continued to celebrate the Passover, regarding Christ as the true paschal lamb, and this naturally passed over into a commemoration of the death and resurrection of our Lord or an Easter feast."

Get your free Easter Prayer and Scripture Guide to reflect on the meaning and importance of Jesus' resurrection.

(Video) The True Meaning of Easter

The Etymology and Origin of Easter

According to our Bible dictionary, the name “Easter” was derived from “Eostre,” “originally a Saxon word (Eostre), denoting a goddess of the Saxons, in honor of whom sacrifices were offered about the time of the Passover.”

Another probability is the Norse eostur, eastur, or ostara, which meant “the season of the growing sun” or “the season of new birth.” The word east comes from the same roots. In this case, easter would be linked to the changing of the season.

A more recent and complex explanation comes from the Christian background of Easter rather than the pagan. The early Latin name for the week of Easter was hebdomada alba or “white week,” while the Sunday after Easter day was called Dominica in albis from the white robes of those who had been newly baptized. The word alba is Latin both for white and dawn. People speaking Old High German made a mistake in their translation and used a plural word for dawn, ostarun, instead of a plural for white. From ostarun we get the German Ostern and the English Easter.

Christian Meaning of Easter

The significance of Easter is Jesus Christ's triumph over death. His resurrection means the eternal life that is granted to all who believe in Him. The purpose of Easter also means the full confirmation of all that Jesus taught and preached during His three-year ministry. If He had not risen from the dead, if He had simply died and not been resurrected, He would have been thought just another teacher or prophet. However, His resurrection rebuked all that and provided final and undeniable proof that He was really the Son of God and that He had overcome death once and for all.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the core of the Christian gospel. Saint Paul says that if Christ is not raised from the dead, then our preaching and hope are in vain (1 Cor. 15:14). Certainly, without the resurrection, there would be no Christian preaching or faith. The apostles of Christ would have continued as the disheartened group which the Gospel of John depicts being in hiding for fear of the Jews. They were in total despair until they met the risen Christ (John 20:19). Then they touched Christ's wounds of the nails and the spear; they ate and drank with Him. The resurrection became the foundation of everything they said and did (Acts 2-4): “...for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have” (Luke 24:39).

The resurrection affirms Jesus of Nazareth as not only the prophesied Messiah of Israel but as the King and Lord of a new Jerusalem: a new heaven and a new earth.

(Video) Pagan Origins of Easter

Pagan Origin of "Easter"

Nevertheless, Easter did not always signify Christ's resurrection from the dead and the purpose of Easter was considerably different than what Christians observe today. The feast day of Easter was first a pagan holiday of renewal and rebirth. Honored in the early spring, it praised the pagan Saxon goddess Eastre. When early Christian missionaries saved the Saxons to Christianity, the spring holiday, because it occurred near the same season as the traditional memorial of Christ's resurrection from the dead, was joined with the pagan festival, and became known as Easter. The meaning of Easter was also changed to honor its new Christian significance.

Easter Bunny's Connection to Christianity

The following is an excerpt from The Meaning and Origin of the Easter Bunny:

The origin of the Easter Bunny can be dated back to the 13th century in Germany. The Germanic folk, known as the Teutons, worshiped pagan gods and goddesses. One such goddess was Eostra (otherwise known as Ostara or Ēostre). She was revered as the goddess of fertility and spring. The word “Easter” finds its etymology from the goddess’s name.

Due to its prolific breeding tendencies, the rabbit became a symbol for Eostra. In AD 595, Pope Gregory sent Roman monks to convert the Anglo Saxons. The Anglo-Saxons, like German forefathers, celebrated Eostra. When converted, they accepted the celebration of Jesus Christ's resurrection at Easter while still continuing the celebration of spring renewal and the rabbit's symbolism.

The Color Purple at Easter

The following is an excerpt from Why is the Color Purple Associated With Easter?:

To understand why the color purple became the color of Lent and Easter, we must first look at the color’s significance in ancient society. In antiquity, purple dye was a prized commodity because of how difficult it was to obtain. In particular, purple dye was obtained from the harvesting of certain marine snails.

(Video) The REAL Story of Easter | Uncomfortable Truth |

In light of how labor-intensive it was to produce purple dye, purple apparel was very expensive and often only worn by kings, other royal members, or those with high-ranking authority. As such, the color purple became known as a mark of royalty and sovereignty.

The Roman soldiers who tortured Jesus during His Passion would’ve been well-aware of the imperial symbolism behind the color purple. This is why, in mocking Jesus before His crucifixion, the soldiers dressed Jesus in a purple robe and put a crown of thorns on His head, proceeding to then beat Him and yell, “Hail, king of the Jews!” (John 19:2-3).

In a further attempt to humiliate Jesus after the soldiers had removed the purple robe from Him, Pilate had a sign affixed to Jesus’ cross inscribed with the words, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” (John 19:19). This inscription is memorialized on today’s crucifixes by the letters INRI, which are the initials for “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” in Latin — Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum.

In remembrance of the purple robe the Roman soldiers put on Jesus in mockery, churches display the color purple during Lent to mourn the emotional and physical anguish that Jesus underwent during His Passion, and also to proclaim Him as the true King of Kings. In some churches, the clergy wear purple vestments, drape lecterns with purple cloths, and cover the front of altars with purple frontals.

Easter Meaning Today

For Christians worldwide, the importance of Easter is praising and acknowledging Jesus Christ's resurrection from the dead, and His glorious assurances of eternal life for all who believe in Him. While there are plenty of non-religious traditions such as the easter bunny, baskets of candy, and Easter egg hunts, there are also meaningful traditions for Christians today. Some include

  • Sunrise services - many churches meet at a special sunrise service time to celebrate the risen savior
  • Resurrection rolls - these are a cute way to teach children about the empty tomb of Jesus. Resurrection rolls are baked with a large marshmallow inside that disappears while baking, symbolizing the empty tomb of Jesus!
  • Easter Lilies can be found decorating churches and homes as a reminder of the purity of Jesus' sacrifice and the new life we have through his resurrection

Bible Verses about Easter & Resurrection of Jesus

  • Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead - 1 Peter 1:3 ESV

We celebrate Easter because this holiday recognizes that we can die to our old way of living and resurrect into our new life with Christ. Christianity does require a death to self. But the resurrection we experience in a spiritual sense and the resurrection of the body we have yet to experience give us ample cause for celebration.

(Video) The True Meaning Of Easter

  • Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, - John 11:25 ESV

We have full confidence that no matter what happens to us on this Earth that we can experience eternal joy with God in heaven. No wonder so many brothers and sisters continue to praise Jesus even when they experience persecution and martyrdom. Because we have a greater hope and promise.

  • Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. - Romans 10:9

It is integral to our faith that we believe in the Resurrection. Our faith has no foundation if we don't believe Jesus rose again on that Easter Sunday.

  • If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. - Romans 8:11
  • Because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” - Acts 17:31
  • We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. - Romans 6:4

The Christian faith has many symbols. We often replicate the process Jesus underwent on the cross in a symbolic sense. We die to our old selves. We also are "buried" through the sacrament of baptism and experience a resurrection and new life in Christ. Christ gives us a new life holistically. We experience some of that new life during our time on Earth and look forward to experiencing the rest of the resurrection in Heaven.

  • For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. - Romans 14:9

We celebrate Easter because God lived the life we should've lived, and died the death we deserved to die so that we could live. What a wonderful cause for celebration. That we can experience the resurrection with Him!

Read more: Easter Bible Verses and Scriptures to Celebrate the Resurrection of Christ

Sources

(Video) HISTORY OF EASTER: IS IT A PAGAN HOLIDAY?

Easter | Definition - Dictionary.com
Easter - Crosswalk.com
HOLY PASCHA - oca.org

FAQs

What is the true meaning of Easter Why is it celebrated? ›

Easter is one of the principal holidays, or feasts, of Christianity. It marks the Resurrection of Jesus three days after his death by crucifixion. For many Christian churches, Easter is the joyful end to the Lenten season of fasting and penitence.

What is the original meaning of Easter? ›

The Origin of Easter

Easter actually originated as an ancient pagan celebration of the spring equinox. In Christianity, the day was dedicated to observing the resurrection of Jesus Christ, usually celebrated around the time of the Jewish Passover.

Why is Easter called Easter short answer? ›

The naming of the celebration as "Easter" seems to go back to the name of a pre-Christian goddess in England, Eostre, who was celebrated at beginning of spring. The only reference to this goddess comes from the writings of the Venerable Bede, a British monk who lived in the late seventh and early eighth century.

Why is Easter the most important celebration? ›

Easter is the most important holiday of the Christian Church calendar. It celebrates Jesus Christ's resurrection from the dead after he was crucified for the sins of the world―the central tenet of the Christian faith.

Why did God create Easter? ›

God loved us so much he wanted us to always be with him too. That's why God knew he'd need to give us Easter.” As Little Cub celebrates Easter with Papa, Mama, and her brother and sister, she begins to ask her papa questions about this very special day of the year.

What are 5 facts about Easter? ›

Here's How to Clean a Keurig
  • Easter Is Named for a Fertility Goddess. ...
  • Easter is the Oldest Christian Holiday. ...
  • Eggs Were Originally Dyed to Represent Christ's Blood. ...
  • The Easter Bunny is German. ...
  • We Have the Ukraine to Thank for Egg Decorating. ...
  • In 2007, Florida Held the Largest Easter Egg Hunt Ever.
Mar 1, 2022

What is the true story of Easter? ›

For Christians, Easter is associated with the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ approximately 2,000 years ago. Jesus Christ, the true Messiah, was crucified and resurrected at the time of the Jewish Passover.

What does the Bible say about the meaning of Easter? ›

The significance of Easter is Jesus Christ's triumph over death. His resurrection means the eternal life that is granted to all who believe in Him. The purpose of Easter also means the full confirmation of all that Jesus taught and preached during His three-year ministry.

What does the Bible say about Easter? ›

Luke 24:6-7

He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 'The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again. '

Where is Easter mentioned in the Bible? ›

But wait, Easter is mentioned in the New Testament: Acts 12:4. This is the only verse in the New Testament that uses the word “Easter.” And you'll only find it if you are using a King James Bible.

Why is Easter important to Christians? ›

Easter is the Christian festival that celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ and his promise of eternal life. Christians celebrate Easter to remember the great sacrifice that Jesus made.

Is the word Easter in the Bible? ›

As a matter of fact, the word Easter only appears in the King James Version of English bible translations. It does not exist in any other English bible translation. Even the King James Version was forced to remove it from its revised version, known as the New King James Version.

What does Jesus have to do with Easter? ›

Easter is the most important Christian festival of the years - it's when Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Bible says that Christ died on the cross on a day called Good Friday. According to the Bible, Jesus was then resurrected and came back to life on Easter Sunday.

Why are Easter eggs associated with Jesus? ›

The egg itself became a symbol of the Resurrection. Just as Jesus rose from the tomb, the egg symbolized new life emerging from the eggshell. In the Orthodox tradition, eggs are painted red to symbolize the blood that Jesus shed on the cross. The egg-coloring tradition has continued even in modern secular nations.

Was Easter stolen by Christians? ›

Christians didn't steal Easter, but it probably wasn't a wholly new idea, either. Candida Moss is the author of the “Myth of Persecution” and “Ancient Christian Martyrdom” and professor of New Testament and early Christianity at the University of Notre Dame.

Who originally started Easter? ›

Have you ever wondered how this seemingly bizarre tradition came to be? Well, it turns out Easter actually began as a pagan festival celebrating spring in the Northern Hemisphere, long before the advent of Christianity.

Why do Jehovah's not celebrate Easter? ›

Jehovah's Witnesses do not celebrate most holidays or events that honour people who aren't Jesus. That includes birthdays, Mother's Day, Valentine's Day and Hallowe'en. They also don't celebrate religious holidays such as Christmas and Easter in the belief that these customs have pagan origins.

What is a good Easter quote? ›

"There would be no Christmas if there was no Easter." "Blessed are those who have not seen and have yet believed." "Easter is the only time of year when it is safe to put all your eggs in one basket." "If Easter says anything to us today, it says this: You can put truth in a grave but it won't stay there."

When did Easter start in the Bible? ›

6. What Are Easter's Pagan Origins? In addition to the fact that Easter appears nowhere in the Bible, the celebration of Easter is also rooted in pagan traditions spanning thousands of years before the birth of Christ.

What is the most important message of Easter? ›

Easter is the Christian holiday celebrating the Resurrection, or bringing back to life, of Jesus Christ three days after his crucifixion. In Christian tradition, the Resurrection represents Christ's victory over death and the promise of eternal life for those who follow him.

What are the main beliefs that Easter expresses? ›

Easter celebrates Jesus' supernatural resurrection from the dead, which is one of the chief tenets of the Christian faith. The resurrection established Jesus as the Son of God and is cited as proof that God will righteously judge the world.

Why is Easter more important than Christmas? ›

Easter is the most important festival in Christianity, far more important than Christmas because it celebrates God's victory over sin and death. When Jesus rose again it was God's way of showing that he cannot be defeated.

What does the Easter bunny have to do with Easter and Jesus? ›

And what do they have to do with the resurrection of Jesus? Well, nothing. Bunnies, eggs, Easter gifts and fluffy, yellow chicks in gardening hats all stem from pagan roots. They were incorporated into the celebration of Easter separately from the Christian tradition of honoring the day Jesus Christ rose from the dead.

Why does Easter have a bunny? ›

According to some sources, the Easter bunny first arrived in America in the 1700s with German immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania and transported their tradition of an egg-laying hare called “Osterhase” or “Oschter Haws.” Their children made nests in which this creature could lay its colored eggs.

When was Easter when Jesus died? ›

Schaefer and J. P. Pratt. Also according to Humphreys and Waddington, the lunar Hebrew calendar leaves only two plausible dates within the reign of Pontius Pilate for Jesus' death, and both of these would have been a 14 Nisan as specified in the Gospel of John: Friday 7 April AD 30, and Friday 3 April AD 33.

What does Easter Bunny have to do with Jesus? ›

And what do they have to do with the resurrection of Jesus? Well, nothing. Bunnies, eggs, Easter gifts and fluffy, yellow chicks in gardening hats all stem from pagan roots. They were incorporated into the celebration of Easter separately from the Christian tradition of honoring the day Jesus Christ rose from the dead.

Why do we celebrate Easter with eggs and bunnies? ›

The Easter bunny and Easter eggs originated as pagan symbols of spring and rebirth. Over the centuries, these ancient symbols became associated with the Christian holiday of Easter such that the two traditions have merged together to become what some celebrate today.

Who invented Easter and why? ›

The naming of the celebration as “Easter” seems to go back to the name of a pre-Christian goddess in England, Eostre, who was celebrated at beginning of spring. The only reference to this goddess comes from the writings of the Venerable Bede, a British monk who lived in the late seventh and early eighth century.

Why do we hide eggs on Easter? ›

Why do we hide eggs at Easter? In many pre-Christian societies eggs held associations with spring and new life. Early Christians adapted these beliefs, making the egg a symbol of the resurrection and the empty shell a metaphor for Jesus' tomb.

Why do we color eggs on Easter? ›

In Christianity, it's believed that eggs were formerly a forbidden food during the Lenten season, so people would paint and decorate them to mark the end of the period of penance and fasting. Early Christians in Mesopotamia dyed eggs red to mimic the blood that Christ shed during his crucifixion.

What does Santa Claus have to do with Jesus? ›

Santa Claus is a legend based mostly on the life of Saint Nicholas, a real-life, historical follower of Jesus Christ –a man who gave generously to those in need and fulfilled the Biblical command to love your neighbor.

Why do we eat chocolate at Easter? ›

The chocolate egg started as a pagan symbol of fertility and spring and developed into a representation of Christ's resurrection. To this day, it still holds this meaning for a variety of people from different backgrounds across the country.

What is the story of Easter? ›

The story behind Easter lies in the New Testament of the Bible which narrates how Jesus was arrested by the Roman authorities because he claimed to be the “Son of God”. He was then sentenced to death by Pontius Pilate, the Roman emperor by crucifixion. His resurrection three days later marks the occasion of Easter.

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