By BGEA Staff • June 1, 2004
The origins of Easter can be traced to several pre-Christian cultures. The name Easter is attributed to Eastre, the Teutonic goddess of spring and fertility, Astarte the Phoenician goddess, Ishtar the Babylonian goddess, and Oster, the German equivalent. Eastre was celebrated on the day of the Spring Equinox.
Jesus was crucified at the time of the Passover; read John 13:1; 18:28, 39; 19:14. In the early centuries of the Christian church, the celebration of Christ’s death and resurrection, based on the timing of the Jewish Passover, coincided with Eastre’s festival.
As pagans were transformed by the Gospel, the Christian celebration took the pagan name. In the year 325, the Nicene Council set the annual observance of Easter on the first Sunday following the full moon after the March equinox (usually March 20 or 21).
Some Christians prefer the name Resurrection Sunday instead of Easter. This avoids any confusion with pagan roots and also exalts the significance of Christ’s death and resurrection above the commercialization of Easter. May God help us to honor Christ every day, including the day when we especially remember His glorious resurrection.