Today I would like to tell you a little about the origins of Easter. Whether you believe it or not, but this quintessential Christian holiday has its core beginnings in the Germanic / Anglo-Saxan pagan festival that celebrates and markes the spring equinox. In this festivals the Goddess of Spring, the East, Resurrection and Rebirth – Ostara or Eostre – was celebrated. Her festival and celebrations marked the coming of spring, the return of the sun, and with it fertility. Our modern day word Easter or Ostern in German is directly derived from the Goddesses name (Eostre, Ostara).
In the tale of Ostara / Eostre she was a playful goddess who ruled over the earth’s beginning, when the sun king traveled across the sky in a chariot, marking the end of winter. Eostre was said to come to appear on earth as a beautiful maiden who carried a basket of eggs, and had a white, magical rabbit as her companion. It is said that the white magical rabbit brought life back to dying plants and flowers and was hiding colorful eggs in the fields.
So the easter bunny has two myths of origins – the one of being her magical companion who traveled with her to return life back to earth the earth, and the other in which Eostre saved the life of a bird who was dying of the cold weather by magically changing it into a rabbit so it would stay warm.
During the festival of the Vernal Equinox, celebrating Eostre, the Germanik / Anglo-Saxons offered colored eggs to her. They often placed these at graves as a sign of re-birth.
So how did Christianity get involved? How did the thousands of year old tradition has become a core Christian celebration? When Christian missionaries encountered the various Germanik / Anglo-Saxon tribes with their own beliefs they realised that if they had tried to stop all pagan celebrations it would have been certain death. So in order to spread their Christian believes and convert the pagans to Christianity, they did so in a manner not to disturb their celebrations. And so they allowed them to celebrate their pagan festival in a somewhat Christian manner. Since, their pagan spring festival was round about the time that the Christians observed the Resurrection of Christ; it was easier to change this into a Christian celebration. The people were won over through time and endurance.
Easter, prior to A.D. 325 was celebrated on different days of the week. However, during the year of 325 AD, the council of the Nicaea issued the Easter Rule, which proclaims that Easter will be celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon or after the vernal equinox. In essence, Easter must be celebrated on a Sunday between March 22 and April 25. Easter was not celebrated in America until after the Civil War.