Just like most ‘Christian’ holidays, Easter has diverse Pagan roots, and is rich in traditions & symbols ‘borrowed’ from ancient celebrations. In our household, we celebrate Easter as a purely secular holiday – we hunt for eggs, eat lots of chocolate, and hang out with family.
If you think about it, all of the fun traditions of Easter have absolutely NOTHING to do with Christianity anyway, unless you’re really into zombies… Speaking of which, did you know that apparently there was an entire army of zombies that rose from the dead on Easter? Hollywood really missed the boat on that one.
Anyway, here is a little bit of background on where all the symbolism of the season comes from.
The Easter Bunny
Rabbits have long been symbols of fertility, and Spring, ushered in by the Spring Equinox, is commonly seen as a time of increased fertility and light. The symbolism of the bunny being tied to Easter might also be leftover from the pagan festival celebrating Ēostre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring & light (and obvious namesake of the holiday), who had hares as attendants who carried her lights.
In parts of Germany, hares have traditionally been caught and served at public spring feasts, and the modern Easter Bunny is also German in origin. He is first mentioned in 16th century literature as a deliverer of eggs, almost a spring-time version of Santa Claus, leaving coloured eggs for well-behaved children. There is absolutely no biblical connection to the Easter Bunny.
Like rabbits, eggs have traditionally been symbols of fertility & new life and have been associated with ancient pagan festivals celebrating the Spring Equinox. In medieval times, decorated eggs were given as gifts in areas of southern Europe and Persia, while in Egypt, Ostrich eggs were dyed for spring festivals and placed in the graves of the deceased. Engraved Ostrich eggs found in Africa have been dated to be 60,000 years old (which is much older than the 6000 year-old earth we supposedly live on according to the Bible).
Christians basically ‘borrowed’ the symbol of the egg and adapted it for their own beliefs, claiming that the egg represents Jesus’ resurrection & emergence from the tomb. They also claim that Lent is the reason for decorating chicken eggs as they are forbidden from ingesting animal products for the six-week period just prior to Easter, so they would boil & decorate eggs as a way to save them for Easter instead of letting them go to waste.
Modern chocolate eggs originated in France & Germany in the early 19th century, and are a fun, kid-friendly take on giving eggs as presents.
How does your atheist/humanist/pagan family celebrate Easter? Let me know in the comments below!