Is Easter a Pagan Holiday?

No. Easter is a Christian holiday. 

Why People Think Easter is Pagan

Many people believe Easter was originally a pagan festival because of the connection between its English name, Easter, and the Germanic deity “Eostre”— a fertility goddess, associated with the vernal equinox. Whatever the truth of this association, in most European languages Easter translates to some derivative of Pascha: the Hebrew word for Passover. Pascua de Resurreccion in Spanish, Pasqua in Italian, Pâques in French. English’s name for the holiday is the exception, not the rule—and a complete look at the holiday’s etymology makes clear its roots are Hebraic, not pagan. Finally, Easter was made an official holiday long before Christian and German culture blended, rendering a Germanic inspiration highly unlikely.

The Resurrection Argument

Another argument is that the murder and resurrection of gods—particularly fertility gods—are a staple of pagan religion. This fact, combined with Easter’s fertile iconography—eggs, rabbits, etc.—lead many to believe the holiday was a tailored repackaging of earlier stories, rites, and religious figures. For instance, the Egyptian god Horus was murdered and resurrected, becoming a symbol of crop cycles. Innana—the Sumerian goddess of fertility—was crucified on a stake, and subsequently raised from the underworld. And Greek god of the harvest, Dionysus, was torn to shreds and resurrected from the one remaining piece: his heart.

But while some of the imagery of Easter intersect with those of pagan rites–just as some of the gospel’s themes intersect with pre-Christian mythology–there is no way to draw a causal relationship. Death, rebirth, and sacrifice are common touch-points for all religions, pre and post-Christian.




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