"Christians should denounce Easter!" "Those who worship at sunrise are following the practices of pagans!" These kinds of comments clutter my inbox. No other holiday engenders such venomous e-mails, in my experience.
Two hundred years before Jesus, people from the Vatican hill area of Rome worshipped the Great Mother god Eastres and her lover, Tammuz. They believed that Tammuz was born of a virgin, died, and resurrected every year. The observance of his death and resurrection correlated with the coming of spring. It began with a day of blood called Black Friday, and ended three days later with rejoicing over the resurrection of Tammuz.
During the celebration, worshippers exchanged bright colored eggs, representing fertility and sunshine.
Early Christians, who were predominately Jewish, celebrated Passover in spring in remembrance of Jesus. The Christian Passover got intermingled with the pagan festival. The Great Mother became The Virgin Mary. Black Friday became Good Friday, and Tammuz became Jesus.
In 325 CE, the Catholic Church decreed that Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead on the first Sunday after the first full moon in spring.
Not so surprisingly, Christians, especially Messianics, object to the holiday more than non-Christians.
If you don't want to celebrate Easter, by all means, don't. But please don't tell me that I shouldn't. Yes, some of what we do (OK, a lot of what we do) for Easter has pagan origins. A good deal of our way of life, such as the days of the week and giving birthday gifts, began in paganism. But following pagans down a rabbit trail can lead you into a dark hole. Why not live in the now?
Focusing on Easter origins is counterproductive because the holiday lends itself so easily to unity. Christians of all denominations, including Messianics, agree on the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Using Easter as a soapbox to attack paganism seems pointless. Arrogant, even.
Sometimes it takes an act of will to change the focus of a tradition. Do you know anyone who worships Eastres or Tammuz? I don't. But I know people who pause at Easter time to remember the New Testament story of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. That's what I choose to do.
Copyright 2011, Kathryn A. Frazier.
Kathryn lives with her husband and children in Tampa, Florida. It's hot there. And swampy. With gators. She's really brave. PreciousHolidays@yahoo.com