Easter, Christmas, and Paganism

This article discusses the fact that Easter and Christmas as often celebrated contain pagan influence. I mention this not to invalidate Christianity, but to provide for the better practice of Christianity by eliminating bad traditions.

For starters, Easter, Passover, and Resurrection Day are all fundamentally and conceptually different even if they coincide on the calendar. Secondly, they don’t coincide on the calendar.

Easter is allegedly the name of an ancient festival. Sources either paint it as deriving from the Babylonian Ishtar or the Germanic Eostre.

  1. The Epic of Gilgamesh is an epic poem from ancient Mesopotamia. Dating from the Third Dynasty of Ur (circa 2100 BC), it is often regarded as the first great work of literature. The Epic mentions Ishtar, a Babylonian goddess.
  2. Ishtar came to be called Astarte in Greek. Astarte was the word to describe Ishtar as a foreign goddess, not an entity in Greek mythology, although there is speculation that Astarte is related to the Greco-Roman Europa.
  3. Eostre or Ostara are two different translations of the same Germanic diety, attested solely by Venerable Bede. Eggs and rabbits seem to be associated with Germanic tradition, although the existence of Eostre or Ostara has been harshly criticized because there is little evidence for those terms.

I think the term Easter came into usage as a result of Bede’s invention and Martin Luther’s subsequent and strange usage in his translation of the Bible into German. Regardless, the important point regarding the origin of the term Easter is not that it is German, Babylonian, or an accident. The important point is that Easter has nothing to do with Christianity, Judaism, or the Bible.

Passover is the English equivalent of the Hebrew word variously transliterated as Pasch, Pesach, and others. Passover was the night the spirit of the Lord passed over Egypt and brought judgement on it by striking down the unprotected firstborns.

This occurred on the night of the fourteenth day of the first month in the Jewish lunar calendar. That’s the month of Nisan. In Judaism, night begins a new day. So the night of the fourteenth day is actually considered the beginning of the fifteenth day in Judaism.

Importantly, Passover is considered a Sabbath day, or a holy day where there should be no work. I generally agree with the view that Jesus was crucified on Wednesday.

The week of Jesus’ crucifixion contained two Sabbath days. The Passover was on Thursday and there was also the weekly Sabbath, which occurs each Saturday. Crucifixion Day was on the preparation day for Passover. Read more about different views of the timing of the crucifixion here, including added information on the Wednesday view.

Check out this article on the pagan origins of the December 25 date for Christmas, as well as the pagan origins of numerous Christmas traditions including caroling, kissing under mistletoe, Christmas trees and more. The Bible seems to specifically condemn the worship of Christmas trees. While most Christians don’t worship Christmas trees, it still might not be great practice to have them around.

While the date of Jesus’ birth is not certain, we do have some Biblical estimates. It is generally thought that a Biblical date for the birth of Jesus is sometime during September, and perhaps the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles in particular, for reasons outlined in the following two articles:

  1. On what day and month was Jesus born?
  2. On What Day Was Jesus Born?
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