No, Easter is not a pagan holiday. Easter is the Christian celebration of Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead. Christians believe that Jesus, the Son of God, died for our sins on a Roman cross, was buried, and rose to life again “on the first day of the week, very early in the morning” (Luke 24:1).
Those who claim that Easter is a pagan holiday usually mean that the word Easter is etymologically linked to the name of an ancient goddess or that various pagan groups also held ceremonies in the springtime. Neither claim carries much weight.
First, we’ll consider the idea that Easter is a pagan holiday because the name Easter has pagan origins. Some say that a Saxon goddess named Eostre is the namesake of our modern holiday. Others say that the word Easter comes from the name of a Germanic goddess named Ostara. The problem with both of these theories is that there is no real evidence that anyone ever worshiped a goddess by either name. The only mention of Eostre comes from a passing reference in the history of the Venerable Bede. The first mention of a goddess named Ostara is in a book by Jakob Grimm—and Grimm admitted that he could find no solid link between Easter and pagan celebrations.
Next, we’ll consider the idea that Easter is a pagan holiday because its springtime observance coincides with those of pagan religions. There are a plethora of pagan holidays that occur during the season covered by Easter: the Day of Bau (Babylonian), Dark Mother Day (Indian), the Day of Fortuna (Roman), the Feast of Blajini (Romanian), the Feast of Artemis/Diana (Greek/Roman), the Feast of Tellus Mater (Roman), the Festival of Ba’ast (Egyptian), the Festival of Ishtar (Babylonian), the Feast of Elaphebolia (Athenian), and Odin’s Day (Norse), to name a few. But sharing a date on the calendar is no proof that two holidays are related. A married couple who celebrate their wedding anniversary on October 31 should not be accused of appropriating Halloween.
In short, claims that Easter is a pagan holiday are based on hearsay, assumptions, and inferences, with no hard evidence to back them up. Even if Easter Sunday were a Christianized version of an ancient pagan holiday, it would not mean that Easter itself is a pagan holiday. No one today is sacrificing to a goddess named Eostre or Ostara. Regardless of what a day may once have meant, its observance today needs to be evaluated on the basis of what it means today. Christians celebrating Easter are no more pagan than are churches who gather to worship on Sunday (so named because it was the pagan “Day of the Sun”). The pagan origins of the names of the days of the week have nothing to do with the church’s weekly gatherings, and ancient pagan spring festivals have no real bearing on the modern Christian celebration of Easter.
Although not written about Easter, Romans 14:5–6 can apply: “One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord.” If an individual Christian worries about some aspects of an Easter celebration, that Christian should do what he or she believes to be right. He should not judge others who celebrate differently, nor should the others judge him when no clear biblical guideline is involved.
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