Is Easter a Pagan Holiday?

Many people including groups like the Jehovah’s Witnesses avoid celebrating Easter because they claim that it’s a pagan holiday.  The following articles present different perspectives on the origin of Easter and should be reviewed together to reach a conclusion due to the spectrum of responses.

  • Christian Answers states that the name Easter has pagan roots based on the name of the goddess of Spring.  The symbols of eggs and bunnies are connected to fertility and should be avoided by Christians as we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection.  The author believes that the date of Easter was established by Constantine in 325
  • The Christian Research Institute says that the word Easter is derived from an early German word meaning ‘to rise’ rather than any association with a pagan name.  The symbols of eggs and butterflies were originally pagan, but Christianized to communicate the message of the resurrection.  The date of early resurrection celebrations was originally set to be the first Sunday following the Jewish Passover.  The date of Passover wasn’t initially set, but changed based on the lunar calendar, so the day to celebrate Easter moved as well.  In the fourth century, the date became standardized based on the Gregorian calendar
  • John Ankerberg provides with a video that also covers Christmas, but spends most of the time on Halloween.  In the video, James Bjornstad acknowledges that Easter had a pagan origin, but that the focus of the day is the resurrection of Jesus.  In essence, celebrating the resurrection is worthwhile and the name or the date itself is of minimal consequence
  • A Bible Gateway article explains that Easter may have some distant roots in a pagan word related to a month called Eastre in the West Saxon calendar, but that present day use makes no connection between the resurrection and anything in paganism.  Even if there as some connection, the author argues that doesn’t matter because words and calendar dates that we use today often have distant connections to paganism.  For example, Sun-day was the day that the Romans worshipped the sun and the word January is derived from the Roman goddess Janus.
  • Answers in Genesis digs the deepest into history and points us to the fact that God taught His people to mark significant dates with feasts and celebrations.  It cites early celebrations of Passover in connection with Easter and that the early church was split about when to celebrate the resurrection, but not whether or not to do it.  The church finally agreed to a date at the Council of Nicea in 325, but the date itself had nothing to do with paganism.  Christ’s resurrection was in the spring and the agreed upon formula is a reasonable approximation to the timing of Jesus defeat of death

In summary, Easter has some distant connection with paganism due to eggs and other symbols whether or not the name itself is of pagan origin or date celebrated marked a pagan holiday hundreds of years ago.  The association is so distant and inconsequential that it shouldn’t hinder Christians from celebrating what Jesus accomplished for us on that day 2,000 years ago.  God wants us to mark key events to remember His great works, so we should celebrate Jesus sacrifice and His power over death rather than be distracted by arguments about possible affiliations to pagan words or calendar dates that are no longer of any consequence.  Our attention should also be focused on Jesus rather than on egg hunts and chocolate bunnies.

For additional study about the resurrection see Ligonier’s holy week study resources or Biblical Archaeology’s booklet about exploring the resurrection.

This entry was posted in Apologetics, Holidays and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Is Easter a Pagan Holiday?

  1. Jehovah’s Witnesses reject Birthdays all holidays,Thanksgiving even benign Mother’s day.
    The Watchtower leaders want to be ‘different’ for the sake of being different.Jehovah’s Witnesses are a dysfunctional group from the get-go .
    Christmas-Jesus was not born on exactly Dec 25th,but he also did not have his *invisible* second coming in the month of October 1914,a falsehood that is the core doctrine of the Watchtower religion.

    *tell the truth don’t be afraid*–Danny Haszard

  2. I just happened to findcome across your website and this write up Is Easter a Pagan Holiday? | James' Mirror – Christian Discipleship Guide. The words you provide kind of causes me think. Thanks for the write up.

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