Christian Articles Archive

Isn't Easter a pagan holiday?

by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson

By no means! Easter is the primary Christian holiday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ the Lord.

However, the English word "Easter" may have pagan connotations. The Anglo-Saxon priest Venerable Bede in the 8th century derived it from the Anglo-Saxon spring goddess Eostre.

Of course, our days of the week, too, spring from the names of pagan gods:

Sunday Sun god
Monday Moon god
Tuesday Tiu, Germanic god of war
Wednesday Odin, Norse supreme god
Thursday Thor, Norse god of thunder, weather, and crops
Friday Frigga, wife of Odin and Norse goddess of married love and of the hearth
Saturday Saturn, Roman god of agriculture

And the names of the months, similarly are deeply infected with the names of pagan gods:

January Janus, Roman god of doors and gates
February Februus, ancient Italian god, and festival of purification
March Mars, Roman god of war
April Aprilis, Roman republican calendar month, considered by the Romans as sacred to Venus
May Maia, Roman goddess of spring
June Juno, Roman goddess of women and marriage
July Julius Caesar, defied Roman emperor
August Augustus Caesar, defied Roman emperor
September Seventh (month of early Roman calendar)
October Eighth (month of early Roman calendar)
November Ninth (month of early Roman calendar)
December Tenth (month of early Roman calendar)

You see, the NAMES that we use -- indeed, our entire vocabulary -- is filled with pagan references of Anglo-Saxon, Norse, Germanic, and Roman gods and goddesses, since the vocabulary developed before Christianity came to England. But the CONTENT of Easter — at least as true Christians practice it — is a celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The old pagan celebrations of Easter are for those who don't know Jesus. But a meditation on Jesus' cross, his death, and his glorious resurrection are to be the focus of Christians.

Don't get hung up on the name "Easter." But focus on the joy we celebrate when we recall Jesus' rising from the dead on that Sunday morning, that "Easter" morning, 20 centuries ago.

Copyright © 1985-2016, Ralph F. Wilson. <pastor@joyfulheart.com> All rights reserved. A single copy of this article is free. Do not put this on a website. See legal, copyright, and reprint information.

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