When I was a child, it never made sense to me why we hunted for colored eggs on Easter and ate chocolate or marshmellow bunnies, because the holiday was supposed to be about Jesus rising from the dead. What in the world do either of these things have to do with one another?
As I learn more about Wicca, I'm so excited when I uncover the ancient Pagan traditions that were coopted by Christianity. Easter is one of those traditions. Ostara (or Eostra's Day) is the celebration of the Spring Equinox. This is when the forces of night give way to the power of the Sun, and the days begin to lengthen. It is a time of fertility, which is symbolized by the rabbit and the egg. But why did the early Christian Church choose to align its holy days with the Pagan ones?
According to Religioustolerance.org:
Many, perhaps most, Pagan religions in the Mediterranean area had a major seasonal day of religious celebration at or following the Spring Equinox. Cybele, the Phrygian fertility goddess, had a fictional consort who was believed to have been born via a virgin birth. He was Attis, who was believed to have died and been resurrected each year during the period MAR-22 to MAR-25. "About 200 B.C. mystery cults began to appear in Rome just as they had earlier in Greece. Most notable was the Cybele cult centered on Vatican hill ...Associated with the Cybele cult was that of her lover, Attis (the older Tammuz, Osiris, Dionysus, or Orpheus under a new name). He was a god of ever-reviving vegetation. Born of a virgin, he died and was reborn annually. The festival began as a day of blood on Black Friday and culminated after three days in a day of rejoicing over the resurrection." 3
Wherever Christian worship of Jesus and Pagan worship of Attis were active in the same geographical area in ancient times, Christians "used to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus on the same date; and pagans and Christians used to quarrel bitterly about which of their gods was the true prototype and which the imitation."
This makes a lot of sense, especially in light of what we know about the Pagan origins of Christmas. It was easier for the early Church to incorporate the old ways into their own religious celebrations than it was for them to try to eradicate them outright (this isn't to say they didn't try). This is why we see practices such as Santaria in the Carribean, where Catholic Saints take on the form and powers of the local gods and the ancient traditions are incorporated into the new.
So as you eat your candy bunnies and decorate your eggs this weekend, think about this: Spring is a time for new beginnings. Why not celebrate by tending your garden, or casting spells to help realize your hopes for the future? Decorate your home with flowers to honor the goddess, like daffodils, irises, peonies, or narcissus. Or better yet, take a walk to gather the Spring wildflowers that are in bloom. In my opinion, worshipping the Creator outdoors makes so much more sense than sitting in a wooden pew.
Happy Easter or Ostara, whatever you choose to celebrate. Blessed Be!