It's not that I don't celebrate Christ's Resurrection (some modern Churches have given Easter Sunday the name Resurrection Sunday), it's because I don't like the bunnies, eggs, sunrise services, the day it's celebrated, and the name; Easter!
One of the most favorite historical figures within "traditional Christianity" is Constantine the Great, the first Christian Roman Emperor - so-called. Over the centuries, a mythos has been created surrounding Constantine. The Roman Church sees him as a Christian hero who proclaimed the public acceptance and validity of Christianity to the known world at that time.
In reality, Constantine was a political opportunist who found a way to solidify his power by co-opting and melding Christianity within the Pagan framework of Roman life, while still publicly worshipping Sol Invictus (the ultimate Sun-god). BTW, this combining of Monotheism, Polytheism, and Monolatry is called Syncretism. The mythical "stories" surrounding Constantine actually come in 4 different versions. I'll cover those in a later blog. Constantine is mentioned here because of his affect on Easter.
In the year 321 A.D. Constantine decreed that SUNDAY, "the day of the sun", would be a legal day of rest and worship. All other days for rest and worship were forbidden; on pain of death! Just 50 years earlier, the Roman Emperor Aurelian declared December 25th as the birthday of all the assimilated sun-gods. ... does that day sound familiar? ... hmmmm
Enter: The Council of Nicaea;
The year was 325 A.D., just 4 years after the infamous Sunday decree. Presiding over the Council was Constantine, of course, and most of the Roman Bishops. Prior to this Council the Christian world celebrated Passover. The Church celebrated Passover in a way that should be familiar to most Christians - not exactly like the Jewish Passover, although those elements were there - but by re-creating the Lord's Supper! You know, WDJD? (what did Jesus do).
In addition to the traditional Jewish Passover they participated in the breaking of bread and partaking of wine as symbolic representations of the body and blood of Christ; and, they washed each others feet. ... sound familiar?
Passover occurs on the 14th Day of Nisan. This day from the Jewish calendar straddles the "Roman" months of March and April. Most folks don't seem to remember, a year was once well established as 360 days of 24 hours each with 30 days per month (the Romans botched this one also). The original Passover can fall on any day of the week. It varies ...
So ... the Council (Constantine) decreed that "Passover" would fall on the first Sunday of the full moon, or what's called the Vernal Equinox, a pagan holiday. What is today recognized as Easter often occurs far from the actual day of Passover. Before 325 A.D. Christians never celebrated any day called "Easter".
So where did it come from? You've probably guessed already - a Pagan fertility goddess!
History tells us that the English word Easter is derived from Eostra. Like the various sun gods, fertility goddess' from multiple cultures end up being related. Eostra is associated with Astarte, or Ashtaroth (this one's spoken of in biblical text - none too kindly). "She" was first introduced in the British Isles by the Druids (another fun bunch). You know, like the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.
Easter is also another name for Beltis or Ishtar of the ancient Babylonians, and can be traced all the way back to Hathor, the cow goddess of Egypt. Egypt also had a bull god; Apis. You may recall these two as a combined god for the ones who grew tired of waiting for Moses and decided to build a golden calf to worship.
Heathen Anglo-Saxons called the 4th month "Esturmonath" after Eostra and pre-Christian Germanic people had an important spring festival dedicated to the goddess Ostara, sometimes called Eostra. It's interesting, but there exists right now a "New Age" organization in California called Astara. I wonder if there's a relationship? Ostara's name suggests "east" and thus dawn, or morning light.
This Eostra devotion was ultimately linked to the springtime celebration of Diana and Artemis, the Roman and Greek goddess' of fertility, respectively. The myth states that the fertility goddess (pick whichever name you want) turned a bird into a hare! Now we're getting somewhere. We have a hare, a bunny, with the ability to lay eggs! Yes, that would be Easter Eggs!
BUNNY GRAPHIC FROM: http://www.lucylearns.com/
So ... Next time you're invited to a sunrise Easter service, asked to face the rising sun and say a prayer, and while you're enjoying the little children as they hunt for eggs; just remember, you are probably NOT celebrating Almighty God! All of us have to decide if these pagan connections to Christianity are important or not.