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Why Easter is Not a Pagan Holiday

Updated on April 15, 2019
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Mamerto Adan is a feature writer back in college for a a school paper. Science is one of his many interests, and his favorite topic.

In popular social media, they always popped out on one’s news feed. We knew them, those countless memes claiming that various Christian feasts are pagan rip-offs. This becomes especially rampant when holiday seasons near.

And Easter-tide is always a favorite target.

Anyone opposing Christianity, even to every world religion will often resort to such memes to discredit and to debunk. It seems that having pagan qualities could be a proof that religion is a delusion. Or at least that’s what the neckbeards claim.

Christian holidays do have pagan elements, and Halloween is a good example. Nevertheless, people never really considered those festivities, Easter included as pagan. In this article, we will focus on an important celebration among the whole Christendom. When a savior died for his people and rose from the dead on that joyous day. Easter was a meaningful but fulfilling day for me. As a child it’s a break from the long and solemn weeks of Lent. As I grew up, it became a symbol of strength and fulfillment. But if there is one thing, I never really considered it to be pagan. And as we dig into Easter, the less pagan it appears, and the more Christian it becomes.

Firstly, Why People Point These Out

As what’s mentioned earlier, there are people who will resort to anything to discredit every world religion. In the case of Christianity, stressing the pagan symbolism is one way of attempting to show everyone that religion is merely invented. Just a copy of earlier pagan cults. Anti-theists want proof that religion is a delusion, and what a way than to spread questionable “facts” in the form of memes in social media. Nevertheless, experts are quick to point out that there are flaws in their claims.

The Pagan Practices of Easter

The hare, a favorite Easter animal.
The hare, a favorite Easter animal.

Firstly, is the name of the holiday itself. The modern English term came from the Old English Eastre, or Eostre. Originally it refers to the Anglo-Saxon Goddess Eostre, a spring deity as what was mentioned by the 8th century English monk Venerable Bede. Her light was said to be carried by hares, which will later give birth to the Easter Bunnies we see today in Easter celebrations. Later, we will check the historicity of Eostre and if she had credence at all.

And Easter (at least in Western celebration) won’t be complete without the Easter Eggs. This time the origins of the Eggs date back in the early cultures of Mesopotamia and Crete. Eggs back then are associated with death and rebirth, as well as kingship. The practice was eventually adopted during the spread of Christianity, with early Christians of Mesopotamia painting their eggs red in the memory of Blood of Christ shed during the crucifixion.

The Goddess Inanna

This leaves a lot of room for doubt.
This leaves a lot of room for doubt.

I’m sure you have seen this. Those memes claiming that the whole Easter celebration came from the Assyrian fertility goddess Ishtar. It became a Christian celebration after the pagan feast was adopted in the Roman Empire at the time of Constantine

This meme was circulating in social medias for some time now.

And like many neckbeard “reliable” sources, it managed to connect Ishtar, or Inanna her alternate name to Christ. Maybe Christ is not a historical figure at all, since his story mirrors that of Inanna. After all, Inanna had her own “resurrection” myth. She was said to be crucified, descended in the underworld and resurrected.

And experts are finding the claim laughable.

We will debunk the stupid meme in later section. But according to my sources, it started in some Dawkins fan page and his followers lapped it up and shared it across the reaches of social media.

Debunking the Inanna Claim

Basically, this is how Inanna died.
Basically, this is how Inanna died.

I will dedicate this section for busting the meme alone, for it is basically misinformation they are doing. Starting with the etymology, if you read the earlier section of this article, we could determine that Ishtar and Easter have no connection. Again, the name Easter came from an Anglo-Saxon goddess, not an Assyrian deity, given that Eostre is even historically accurate. It’s all coincidence why it sounds the same. In fact, by making a basis on how the name sounds we might arrive at the ludicrous conclusion that the work “Fish Star” came from “Ishtar.”

As for the Christ connection, aside from the fact that there are a lot of documents supporting the historical Jesus, it’s all the result of creative cherry picking on Inanna’s myth.

Christ’s crucifixion, death and resurrection are well known among Christians. Jesus died on the cross, descended into hell and rose from the death on the third day. In Inanna’s case, she was already in the underworld to begin with, unlike Christ who was breathing his last mortal breath among humans. And she was not crucified. She was killed and her corpse was hung on a hook like a butchered animal. And the one that killed her was her sister, Ershkigal (she was struck dead, not nailed onto something).

As for her resurrection, she never came to life under her own steam. She was rescued by Enki’s beings from the underworld, and her husband Dumuzid served as her replacement. A stark contrast to the resurrected Christ who basically woke up and walked away from a heavily guarded and sealed tomb.

Easter is not even called Easter Before

Back on how Easter is not a Pagan holiday, Easter celebration predates the Easter Bunnies, eggs and other familiar traditions. Early Christians are already celebrating Easter, but back then it was not known as Easter at all. With English and Germanic languages not in used, people call it “Pascha”, which came from the Hebrew word “Passover.” And so far as for the historicity of Eostre, there are no other sources rather than from the writings of Venerable Bede. Some even suspected that Bede invented Eostre.

Lastly Easter celebration seems to vary according to denominations and country. At present, the Easter Bunny and eggs are more secular than spiritual, while other countries dropped the name Easter and stick to the original name. In Catholic Spain, it is known as Pascua de Resurreccion (Feast of Resurrection), while Filipinos refer to Easter as “Pasko ng Pagkabuhay (Filipino for Spanish Easter). And yes, there are some customs that never use bunnies or eggs.

Overall

Easter cannot be pagan celebration because:

1. It was celebrated long before the pagan elements are added.

2. It had different name before it was called Easter.

3. The pagan elements are later addition, or simply adopted due to customs.

4. The historicity of Eostre had only one source (Bede).


Special mention: the Inanna memes are false.

Reference

1. Header McDougall (April 03, 2010) "The Pagan Roots of Easter." The Guardian.

2. Jack Parks (April 1, 2018). "Debunking a Popular Easter Meme." Albany Herald.

3. Cranach (March 29, 2013). "Easter was NOT Based on Pagan Holiday." Patheos.


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