Unlike a lot of the World, I was taught that Easter was an evil holiday. Filled with demons and “paganism,” but honestly, what could be so sinful: chocolate eggs? Decorating the eggs? Hiding them? My grandma told me that decorated eggs were the most dangerous, so like any God-fearing child, I avoided them. But enough is enough, and many years later I am here to tell you about the evolution of the adorably-innocent Easter holiday we know today. From Pagan, to Christian, to atheist, it still exists today, and it’s coming up soon.
Way back from before “Jesus died for our sins,” there were an ancient people who celebrated Easter as an observance of the springtime season, and the Goddess Eostre (also Ostana). Eostre’s symbol was a rabbit, mainly because of the vigorous mating habits they have, and Springtime symbolized a time of new life and fertility. Very similar to religion today, an epic poem of sorts was used to explain the changing of the seasons. Over 5,000 years ago, “The Descent of Inanna” was written (read full poem here), explaining the death and then resurrection of the Queen of the Gods, Inanna (also Ishtar). According to Ancient Origins, one theory of the evolution of our modern use of the Easter holiday comes from the event within the poem where, “In her absence, the earth loses its fertility, crops cease to grow and animals stop reproducing. Unless something is done, all life on earth will end.” This all sounds very familiar to the modern Christian interpretation, someone died, they got resurrected, springtime, you get it. I personally, love the Pagan interpretation much more, it’s a very vivid poem that centers upon a complicated conflict between the Goddess of Life and the Goddess of the Underworld (her sister!). This conflict reflects the conflicts of the seasons, eternally battling every year, until the end of time.
And then many years later, over 4,000 years actually, the early Christians swooped in and changed the story.
According to the Encyclopedia Brittanica, the earliest celebration of our modern day Easter was “from the 2nd century, though the commemoration of Jesus’ Resurrection [which] probably occurred earlier.” So, the resurrection of Inanna and celebration of Eostre (spring) was swapped with the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the “appreciation” towards his death for all of our sins. Despite conflicts like the Paschal Controversies, this reason for celebrating Easter has stood the test of time. Modern day websites for Christians still endorse their reasons for celebrating Easter, and Life Chruch put it into one sentence:
We celebrate Easter to worship our eternally perfect God who separated Himself from every other deity by choosing to give up His own rights and life to restore and save the rights and lives of His creation.Jason Inman, Life Church
Modern Day Celebration
With my upbringing in the Jehovah’s Witness cult, I was very interested to see how every day people celebrated the holiday I’d never got to participate in. Were holidays also cult-like? Was it all about Jesus? Did they read scriptures at the table and pray non-stop? In short, no, they don’t. I conducted a short survey on a few people, who will remain anonymous, and the majority of them were either agnostic or not associated with any religion (take the survey and compare responses, here). Many respondents also said that even though they aren’t affiliated with any religion, they still celebrate the holiday with “Chocolate!,” or “A nicer dinner than usual.” This is the way I personally celebrate holidays too, just a wonderful excuse to get together with loved-ones, dress nice, and make an amazing meal. Many respondents also had guesses about the symbolism of the Easter Bunny, including: fertility, a symbol of Spring, rapid regeneration, and “I was told about a story of Jesus and a bunny rabbit as I was growing up in church but that’s definitely bs.”
Religion is changing, and it’s transforming into a love of companionship, a love of company, and a celebration of Life. Many of our most popular holidays are rooted in some sort of religion, and storytelling. Though many who celebrate are not religiously affiliated, they have transformed into a new type of believer – A believer of life, love, and the joy that comes from living in our world. This is the next step in the evolution of celebration, seeing the world as it is, and still celebrating it without all of the bells-and-whistles of the stories of time’s past. People today are beginning to celebrate the world as it is, and loving it now, living it now, and there’s nothing wrong with that.