What is Easter?

As a child, I used to ask my parents and my sunday school teachers the same question every Easter:

  1. Why does the date keep changing? 
  2. How does the word Easter connect to all this?
  3. Why does a bunny have eggs?
  4. What does the bunny delivering eggs have to do with Christ and the Cross?

For those of you who 1) never thought of these questions or 2) never found the answers, I thought I'd shed some light on the Easter holiday people celebrate like clockwork.

Why does it keep changing?

Christmas is December 25; Thanksgiving is the fourth Thursday of November.  Easter, however, changes every year with seemingly no rhyme or reason. The date of Easter was set at the Council of Nicaea (in 325CE) as the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the vernal equinox [1]. The vernal equinox, or Spring equinox for the northern hemisphere, occurs when the tilt of the Earth relative to the Sun is zero. During the equinox, night and day are approximately equal in duration, and its occurrence is the marker of the beginning of Spring [2]. Due to this method, it is possible that Easter may occur before the passover, according to sources [1, 3, 4]. In Luke 22, Jesus and the disciples prepare and eat the Passover feast, otherwise known as the last supper. Thus Biblically speaking, Easter should always occur after the Passover.  Using a different method of calculation, the Eastern Orthodox church calculates their date for Easter based on the Passover so that Easter always occurs after the Passover . When this problem was raised to the Council of Nicaea, the argument for disregarding the discrepancy was that the replacement of the Passover lamb with Jesus severed the relationship between the two holidays [4]. However, this neglects the chronological series of events; not to mention the fact that Jesus' sacrifice represents the sacrifice of the Passover lamb, makes the Passover intrinsically related to Easter. How can Jesus be the sacrifice before the Passover is supposed to occur? Furthermore, in Luke 22:16 KJV, Jesus says "I will not eat anymore thereof" in reference to the Passover feast--He doesn't say "ye" or "you." This implies He expects the disciples to continue eating the Passover meal... 

How does the word Easter connect to all this?

With Christmas, you can at least argue that "Christ" is in the word Christmas. There is nothing about Christ, resurrection, Messiah, or even God, present in the term Easter. So why was it given to the most important Christian holiday? The word Easter may or may not be derived from a Germanic fertility goddess named Eostre. Sources are conflicted on the matter [5, 6]. Of course "Easter" is also the English translation of the word; in Greece the holiday is called "Lambros" which means bright or shining [5]. Basically, what I gather from sources, is it was either named after a "real" pagan goddess, or people were celebrating a spring festival in the name of a fake pagan goddess and English Christians adapted the name. Either way, the term "Easter" has nothing to do with Christ.

See part 2 here


  1. "How the Easter Date is Determined". Time and Date; visited April 2014
  2. "The Spring Equinox". The Old Farmer's Almanac; visited April 2014
  3. Christopher J. Williams. "Why Easter Dates Vary, Year to Year". Springfield News Leader. April 17, 2014
  4. Scott P. Richert. "How is the Date of Easter Calculated". ThoughtCo; visited April 2014
  5. Jason Mankey. "Eostre, Easter, Ostara, Eggs, and Bunnies". Patheos. March 12, 2013
  6. Patti Wigington. "Eostre - Spring Goddess or NeoPagan Fancy?". ThoughtCo; visited April 2014

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