History of “Ostern”(German
The ancient “Deutsch / German” celebrated the return of “Frühling”
with an uproarious festival commemorating their goddess of offspring and of
springtime, “Ostern”. She was the Great Mother Goddess of the German
people in Northern Europe. Similar "Teutonic dawn goddess of
fertility [were] known variously as Ostare, Ostara, Ostern, Eostra, Eostre,
Eostur, Eastra, Eastur, Austron and Ausos." Her name was derived from the ancient word for spring: "Eastre."
An alternate explanation has been
suggested. The name given by the Frankish church to Jesus' resurrection
festival included the Latin word "alba" which means
"white." (This was a reference to the white robes
that were worn during the festival.) "Alba" also has a second
meaning: "sunrise." When the name of the festival was translated
into German, the "sunrise" meaning was selected in error. This
became "Ostern" in German. Ostern has been proposed
as the origin of the word "Easter".
When the second-century Christian
missionaries encountered the tribes of the north with their pagan celebrations,
they attempted to convert them to Christianity. They did so, however, in a
It would have been suicide for the very early Christian converts to
celebrate their holy days with observances that did not coincide with
celebrations that already existed. To save lives, the missionaries cleverly
decided to spread their religious message slowly throughout the populations by
allowing them to continue to celebrate pagan feasts, but to do so in a
As it happened, the pagan festival of “Eastre” occurred at the
same time of year as the Christian observance of the Resurrection of Christ. It
made sense, therefore, to alter the festival itself, to make it a Christian
celebration as converts were slowly won over. The early name, “Eastre”,
was eventually changed to its modern spelling, Easter.
The Date of Easter
Prior to A.D. 325, Easter was variously celebrated on different days of the
week, including Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. In that year, the Council of
Nicaea was convened by emperor Constantine. It issued the Easter Rule which
states that Easter shall be celebrated on the first Sunday that occurs after
the first full moon on or after the vernal equinox, or first day of spring.
Therefore, Easter must be celebrated on a Sunday between the dates of March 22
and April 25. Its date is tied to the lunar cycle.
The Lenten Season
Lent is the forty-six day period just prior to Easter Sunday. It begins on
Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras (French for "Fat Tuesday") is a
celebration, sometimes called "Carnival," practiced around the world,
on the Tuesday prior to Ash Wednesday. It was designed as a way to "get it
all out" before the sacrifices of Lent began. New Orleans is the focal
point of Mardi Gras celebrations in the U.S.
The Cross is the symbol of the Crucifixion, as opposed to the Resurrection.
However, at the Council of Nicaea, in A.D. 325, Constantine decreed that the
Cross was the official symbol of Christianity. The Cross is not only a symbol
of Easter, but it is more widely used, especially by the Catholic Church, as a
year-round symbol of their faith.
These have been derived primarily
from Pagan traditions at Easter time:
Hot Cross Buns: At the feast of Eostre,
the Saxon fertility Goddess, an ox was sacrificed. The ox's horns became a
symbol for the feast. They were carved into the ritual bread. Thus originated
"hot cross buns". The word "buns" is derived from the
Saxon word "boun" which means "sacred ox." Later, the
symbol of a symmetrical cross was used to decorate the buns; the cross
represent the moon, the heavenly body associated with the Goddess, and its
Easter Rabbit and Eggs: The symbols of
the Norse Goddess Ostara were the hare and the egg. Both
represented fertility. From these, we have inherited the customs and symbols
of the Easter egg and Easter rabbit. Dyed eggs also formed part of the
rituals of the Babylonian mystery religions. Eggs "were sacred to
many ancient civilizations and formed an integral part of religious
ceremonies in Egypt and the Orient. Dyed eggs were hung in Egyptian temples,
and the egg was regarded as the emblem of regenerative life proceeding from
the mouth of the great Egyptian god."
Easter Lilies: "The so-called
'Easter lily' has long been revered by pagans of various lands as a holy
symbol associated with the reproductive organs. It was considered a phallic
Easter Sunrise Service: This custom can
be traced back to the ancient Pagan custom of welcoming the sun God at the
vernal equinox - when daytime is about to exceed the length of the nighttime.
It was a time to "celebrate the return of life and reproduction to
animal and plant life as well." Worship of the Sun God at sunrise may be the religious ritual
condemned by Jehovah as recorded in:
8:16-18: "...behold, at the door of the temple of Jehovah, between
the porch and the altar, were about five and twenty men, with their backs
toward the temple of Jehovah, and their faces toward the east; and they were
worshipping the sun toward the east. Then he said unto me, Hast thou seen
(this), O son of man? Is it a light thing to the house of Judah that they
commit the abominations which they commit here? for they have filled the land
with violence, and have turned again to provoke me to anger: and, lo, they put
the branch to their nose. Therefore will I also deal in wrath; mine eye shall
not spare, neither will I have pity; and though they cry in mine ears with a
loud voice, yet will I not hear them." (ASV)
Easter Candles: These are sometimes lit
in churches on the eve of Easter Sunday. Some commentators believe that these
can be directly linked to the Pagan customs of lighting bonfires at this time
of year to welcome the rebirth/resurrection of the sun God.