A couple of years ago I helped write a film with my friend Cris Cunningham called The Simple Complexity of Easter. Easter, which is a modern term for the resurrection of Jesus Christ. For many years this was the only definition most people were aware of. In recent years there has been a backlash against all major holidays (holy-days) due to the pagan origins of some traditions. When I posted my film online the only negative comment came not from a pagan, but from a Christian, who objected to the term "Easter."
When you type the word Easter into Wikipedia I expected to find something about the pagan origins of the holiday somewhere in the entry, or even in the first few paragraphs. Instead I found a lengthy explanation of the Christian holiday and scarcely even a mention of the pagan origin. The name Easter has been so completely absorbed into Christianity that the original purpose was at one time almost completely lost. In my opinion, Christians should view this as a positive thing. Instead there is an insistence to dig up the corpse of this pagan holiday and parade it around. Why this is seen as necessary I can't fully comprehend.
There are countless websites discussing the pagan origins of Easter so I don't need to detail it all here. It boils down to the idea that pagan traditions were grafted onto Christianity when the cultures were converted, which is true in a way. Most of them agree on the idea that if a tradition has a pagan origin then that tradition is automatically evil, an idea I find to be obtuse at best. It would seem to me that if a practice is stripped of all evil associations and given a pure, new meaning then the practice ceases to be wicked. There are some things that are common to all humans. We eat, we sleep, we go to the bathroom, we procreate. The thing that separates Christians is who we worship, and the manner in which we do these common human things.
We should open our hearts to the plight of the early pagan, and rejoice in their conversion. We seem to forget that pagans were and are humans who GOD LOVES. When pagans were converted the most innocuous parts of their traditions were given a new meaning, or some would argue, the TRUE meaning. The Apostle Paul used this idea as the basis for a sermon he preached in Athens, when he proclaimed that the alter inscribed to â€œAn Unknown Godâ€ was truly a monument to the God of the Hebrews, the one and only true God.
If Christ washes us and makes us new, wouldnâ€™t it stand to reason that he can do the same thing to traditions? If there is nothing specifically evil about rabbits, eggs, chocolate, springtime and fasting then why paint it with such a broad brush due to itâ€™s formerly pagan associations? Especially since for the pagan the symbolism of eggs and animals born in the springtime is a symbol of rebirth, the very thing Christ offers?
We could dissect each tradition one by one and â€œexposeâ€ the origin but that seems pointless. Galatians 5:19-21 states â€œThe acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.â€ A child searching for an egg is an innocent act, no more or less sinful if it happens in a henhouse or in the church yard. A picture of a rabbit does not become an idol simply because it is pictured with a basket of colored eggs.
In refusing to partake in such festivities we are giving power to a non-entity. St. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 8:4 that â€œWe know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one.â€ He goes on to discuss the practice of eating meat sacrificed to idols. According to Paul, since an idol is â€œnothing at allâ€ then the practice is a non-issue for anyone whose conscience allows. He goes on to call those who cannot partake â€œweak.â€
Obviously there are people who have this weak conscience, and it must be considered. I do not invite such people to Easter Sunday, or ask their children to participate in egg hunts or give them baskets of candy. It is frequently assumed by those who do not participate in holidays that those who do are uninformed or willfully disobedient, when truthfully many are aware and find it does not impede their faith to participate in harmless festivals while giving the glory to Christ. To loosely quote C.S. Lewis, â€œChocolate Eggs and Christ Risen!â€ Christians have the freedom to enjoy both, as your conscience allows.