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Monday, March 21, 2016

Is Easter really a pagan holiday?

According to Jehovah's Witnesses (JWs),  Easter ought not be celebrated because it is, in actuality, a pagan holiday.

 "Easter is a pagan holiday that those who want to please God will avoid."

There are also quite a few fundamentalist Christian denominations which also eschew Easter because:

-Easter celebrations are not found in the Bible.

-The Bible commanded us to commemorate his death, not his resurrection.

-Easter eggs and bunny rabbits are symbols from pagan religions and Christians must separate themselves from all things pagan.  Plus, bunny rabbits and Easter egg hunts are not in the Bible.

-Sunrise services are linked to rituals done by ancient sun-worshippers.

-the word "Easter" comes from the AngloSaxon (or perhaps German) pagan goddess "Oestre", who was purportedly the goddess of Spring, fertility and renewal of life.

What is the Catholic response?

Regarding the last objection of "Easter" really being another way to say "Oestre", a pagan goddess...that's simply made up nonsense;  not to mention it's a very narrow Anglo-centric objection Most of the Christian world doesn't speak English and doesn't call this holy day "Easter" at all, so the alleged link to a pagan goddess is non-existent. Most of the Christian world refers to Easter as some derivative of the Latin and Greek wordPascha, which references the Passover.  In Spanish it's called "Pascuas"; French "Pasques"; Afrikaans "Paasfees", Italian "Pasqua", Icelandid "Paska", Turkish "Paskalya....

As St. Paul wrote, "Christ our Pascha (Passover) has been sacrificed for us"--1 Cor 5:7.

Regarding an association to any pagan rituals:  Christ came into a pagan world and sanctified it.  Thus, any link to pagan rituals (true or alleged) is irrelevant because we aren't pagan anymore, and we have taken these pagan customs and made them Christian.  The Catholic Church "sprinkled holy water" on these pagan practices and made them holy! Plus, if the JW or fundamentalist Christian really believes in renouncing all things pagan, he shouldn't be wearing a wedding ring, which has its origin in pagan custom, or calling the days of the week by their English names, which are rooted in pagan mythology (Thursday references the Norse god, Thor, for example).  Incidentally, this month, March, is named after Mars, the pagan god of war, so...

Regarding the Biblical command to commemorate his death, and not his resurrection, we ask:  where does the Bible say NOT to celebrate Christ's resurrection?  In fact, St. Paul states, "If Christ is not risen, our faith is in vain"--1 Cor 15:14, so if we DON'T celebrate the risen Christ, Christianity would seem to be a useless, hopeless and "vain" venture. 

Finally, the objection that Easter celebrations are not found in the Bible, therefore we ought not participate in them is a curious objection.  This criticism seems to fall under the paradigm "If it's not in the Bible it's forbidden". Thus, Christians ought not do these particular practices because they aren't found in the Bible:  praying the rosary, Lenten observances, celebrating Christmas and Easter...

However, what I've noticed is that those who embrace this paradigm also resort to, "If it's not forbidden in the Bible, it's permitted", when they are questioned as to why they engage in a particular practice--for example, folding one's hands in prayer, having a cross on your church steeple, altar calls, Tuesday evening Bible studies, calling your pastor "chaplain"...those things are not found in the Bible, but if you ask someone who endorses the "It's not found in the Bible so it's forbidden" view, he'll say, "Well, the Bible doesn't say I can't do this, so...."

One would think that a Christian should endorse one or the other view, and consistently apply it.  It's a little self-indulgent to object to a particular practice that someone else does because "it's not found in the Bible" while permitting their own particular practice because "the Bible doesn't forbid it".

For more in-depth study visit these websites:


"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" - 1 Peter 3:15

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