The Origins of Easterby Rit Nosotro
Change Over Time essay
Discuss the origin and changes that have led to the modern celebration of Easter. Include the historical importance of the calendar date.
Of all of the holidays celebrated in modern society, Easter is perhaps the most unique, not only because of its unusual background, but also because it commemorates the most pivotal moment in history: the victory of Christ over death.
-Easter began as a celebration to celebrate Christ’s resurrection
-Easter is meshed with pagan holidays and ceremonies in order to attract pagans to Christianity
-327 A.D. at Council of Nicea Easter is ruled to be the first Sunday after the vernal equinox
-Today Easter and the pagan holidays associated with it are meshed into one holiday
-It is celebrated by Christians as Christ’s resurrection and day to hunt Easter eggs and buy chocolate bunnies by non-Christians
Of all of the holidays celebrated in modern society, Easter is perhaps the most unique, not only because of its unusual background, but also because it commemorates the most pivotal moment in history: the victory of Christ over death. However, Easter has two different faces, two different connotations in the minds of people. For Christians, this holiday represents a special significance in that it celebrates the Resurrection. As for unbelievers, Easter brings to mind the coming of spring, Easter eggs, and Easter bunnies. This ties in well with the history of Easter, in light of the fact that this holiday contains a curious mixture of Christian and Pagan traditions. Another unusual aspect of Easter lies in the remarkable way of determining when to celebrate it. When viewing how Easter has changed throughout history, one sees how all of these aspects have come together to form what we celebrate as Easter today.
Easter's primary significance comes, of course, from the day Christ rose from the grave on Sunday, three days after his death. Since this event took place during the Jewish celebration of Passover, many of the symbols and themes of Passover, such as the sacrifice of lambs and the promise of the coming Messiah, have been incorporated into Easter celebrations. In fact, Jesus fulfills the symbols of Passover, for He is the Messiah whom God promised to the Jews, and He is "the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world." (John 1:29) Given the eternal importance of this event, it seems logical that those who follow God would take note of this day every year.
But while Easter primarily serves as a day of remembrance and rejoicing over the Resurrection of Christ, many of the traditions and symbols of Easter are actually based on pagan traditions and symbols. Since Easter took place during the spring, it competed with pagan celebrations of the arrival of spring and renewal of life. In Europe and Asia, this time was dedicated to a goddess of fertility. While this goddess is believed to have been originally based on the Babylonian goddess Ishtar, she also has many counterparts in other mythologies. Interestingly enough, she is referred to in Saxon mythology as "Oestre" or "Eastre." Many scholars consider this the origin of the name "Easter." As for the Easter eggs and rabbits, these symbolize reproduction and were thought to invoke the fertility of spring. Even the painted eggs and egg-hunts originated from pagan ceremonies of various cultures, including the Babylonians.
How, then, did all of these elements become a part of the Easter holiday celebrated today? The answer lies in the spread of Christianity during the second century A.D. In order that pagan cultures, particularly those in Europe, would be more receptive to the gospel and the story of Christ's Resurrection, church leaders began to adopt various aspects of the pagan ceremonies into the Easter celebration. Over time, the traditions surrounding the two holidays began to blend together until they essentially became the same holiday.
One interesting aspect of Easter lies in how its calendar date varies from year to year. The early church merely celebrated Easter around the same time as the Passover feast, which was based on the Hebraic lunar calendar. However, a controversy arose during the fourth century A.D. over which date to celebrate it. While some churches desired to keep Easter in relation to the Passover, other churches objected, since Christ rose on a Sunday and to continue to date it in the customary way might make it fall on a different day of the week. In 327 A.D., Emperor Constantine sought to resolve the issue during the Council of Nicaea. Eventually, the Council ruled that Easter would be celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Vernal (Spring) Equinox. As a result of this decree at the Council of Nicaea, the Easter holiday became even more bound to the pagan rituals forcibly associated with it, causing the two to become ever more mixed together.
For this reason does the actual date of Easter fall on a different set of dates between March and April; since the first full moon after the Vernal Equinox comes at different times every year, so the first Sunday after the full moon comes at a different time every year. But to this day, some people still celebrate Easter on a different date, owing to a difference in calendars. Some churches, such as the Eastern Orthodox Church, calculate the date of Easter according to the Julian calendar, the older version of the currently used Gregorian calendar. Because of this, they usually observe Easter a week or so later than most other churches.
In today's society, the Christian and Pagan have been practiced together for
so long, they have become commonly accepted as rituals relating to Easter. Our
modern society has taken Easter and, much as with Christmas, commercialized
it and secularized it so that most non-believers think of candy and eggs instead
of the importance of Christ's Resurrection. When it comes to the pagan aspect
of Easter, Christians may use their own judgment when it comes to observing
traditions that were once observed for ungodly purposes. However, Christians
should never forget the importance of God's sending His son to die and gain
victory over death, so that we also may gain victory over death through Christ.
If the author wanted to improve upon Biblical integration they might expand on the story of the resurrection of Jesus. The author might also include Scripture references on how to deal with pagan practices and how the Israelites responded to paganism.
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