Should Christians Celebrate Easter?
Should Christians celebrate Easter? This is a prevalent question that resurfaces yearly due to the claim that Easter has pagan roots. Is Easter a pagan holiday, and should we be celebrating it? In this article, we will address the significant questions surrounding Easter that many are confronted with during this season.
This is a very common question that resurfaces this time every year.
We can all agree and affirm that Christians should be celebrating the resurrection of Jesus, but how should we celebrate? To paraphrase Shakespeare, “…to egg hunt or not to egg hunt…that is the question.”
In this article, we will address the major questions many have had or are being confronted with during this season.
Should we call this holiday Easter or Resurrection Sunday? Is Easter a pagan holiday, or does it have pagan roots? Would celebrating Passover instead of Easter be a more authentic or preferable celebration of the resurrection? Should we participate in Easter egg hunts or, like the eggs themselves, hide?
Now, this article is not a persuasive attempt to change the way you celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. We hope and pray that the way you celebrate honors God and focuses on the most fantastic news of all time, that Jesus has risen!
We wrote this article to address many of the objections and questions regarding this holiday. Hopefully, after reading this, you will have all the Scripture, context, and history you need to make a prayerful and informed decision on how you choose to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.
Now, let’s dive into some objections to Easter.
Is “Easter” mentioned in the Bible?
One of the first concerns that might surface is that the Bible says nothing about Easter. The word “Easter” is not mentioned anywhere in Scripture. Maybe I’m behind on my Bible reading plan, but no bunnies have laid eggs yet either.
Although the above statement is valid on the surface, we shouldn’t rest too heavily on the argument that “Easter” isn’t mentioned in Scripture. The celebration of Easter by Christians is, without question, a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. Now, there are elements people participate in that do not correlate to Jesus, and we will address those later. However, since the early days of the Western Church, more people attend church on Easter than any other day of the year, and at its foundation is a celebration of Jesus and His resurrection.
We shouldn’t worry too much that the word “Easter” or the celebration itself is not found in Scripture. The term “Trinity” is not found in Scripture either, yet we affirm its biblical significance.
Should we celebrate a man-made holiday that God didn’t mandate?
Some have suggested that God does not command the celebration of the resurrection/Easter; therefore, it should not be celebrated. This argument also falls short, given that Jesus observed a “man-made” holiday that God did not command when he celebrated Hanukkah!
Then came The Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah); it was winter in Jerusalem. Jesus was walking in the Temple around Solomon’s Colonnade.
Nowhere in Scripture does God command the celebration of Hanukkah, but here, the Son of God is celebrating it. Why? Jesus celebrated Hanukkah because it was a celebration of God that the Jewish people observed.
We celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, not because God mandated the celebration but because it is worthy of celebrating and honors God.
Wasn’t Easter a Pagan god?
The word “Easter” is very controversial to many, and a slew of accusations about its origins have been brought forth throughout the years.
The origin for the word “Easter” has been attributed (but is not limited) to:
— The German word for east, which comes from an even older Latin word for dawn.
— Eastre (or Eostre) who was celebrated as the goddess of spring by the Saxons of Northern Europe.
— A Babylonian goddess Astarte.
— A word with Saxon origin, derived from the old Teutonic form of auferstehn, Auferstehung, which means “Resurrection.”
At the end of the day, all the opinions lack concrete historical evidence and leave us with a big shrug shoulders emoji 🤷♂️ 🤷♀️.
Cliff Sofield, a lexicographer for the Oxford English Dictionary, rightly states “Easter is a very old word. It goes back to the earliest varieties of Old English. It’s hard to know the nitty-gritty details about how any word came to be, especially one people started uttering a millennium ago.”
Whether you fall into the camp that affirms a re-titling of “Easter” to “Resurrection Sunday” or whether you’re an old-fashion Easter lover, we can affirm and understand people’s desire to change the name to Resurrection Sunday. Who would want to bat down that idea? But we must also be careful not to demonize a word we don’t concretely know the origins of, or even worse, judge other believers who use that word.
What’s the deal with Easter Eggs and the Easter Bunny? Something smells pagan.
The nitty-gritty of this conversation comes to the commercialization and magnification of the Easter Bunny and the easter egg, similar to Santa and sleighbells taking over Jesus’ birth. But you’ll have to wait until December for that article 😉.
So what’s the deal with these colorful eggs encroaching on my “He has Risen” yard sign? LOL
Well, like many of the allegations we’ve covered, there is, unfortunately, a lot of guesswork involving the origins of an ancient tradition that goes back hundreds or even thousands of years. Many have claimed that eggs were a symbol of fertility in pagan rituals, and with Easter being situated in the springtime (time of new growth), the early church adopted this ritual into their celebration of Jesus. Whether that is the true origin of the Easter egg is unknown, and concrete evidence is lacking.
We know that decorating eggs has been part of the Easter celebration since medieval times.
The origin for the Christian “Easter Egg” has been attributed (but are not limited) to:
— A symbol of New Life (i.e., the resurrection or the new life we have in Jesus)
— A symbol of the Resurrection (i.e., Jesus emerging from the tomb like a chick from an egg)
— The tradition that eggs were a banned food during Holy Week, and therefore the surplus of eggs were used for arts and crafts. Many cultures painted the eggs red to represent the blood of Jesus.
The Easter Bunny has the most easily traceable origin as it emerged the most recently. Around the 17th century, a German tradition of an “Easter Hare” bringing eggs to good children became known. German immigrants brought this strange tradition to America, and it somehow stuck. The “Easter Hare” changed to the much cuter “Easter Bunny” in the later years… their marketing team was top-notch.
Should we simplify this chaos and celebrate Passover?
Many people throughout the years have had one chocolate bunny too many. Rather than managing the tension of a growing commercialized Easter and an ever-shrinking focus on Jesus, they have opted to reclaim the original celebration of Passover. It’s understandable.
Jesus celebrated the Passover seder as his last meal before going to the cross. 1 Corinthians 5:7 says, “Jesus is our Passover lamb, sacrificed for us.” So, doesn’t it make sense to celebrate this feast?
At the Gateway Center For Israel, we encourage every believer in Jesus to understand the Jewish biblical feasts; it will revolutionize the way you understand Scripture. We firmly believe in God’s ongoing covenant with Israel and the Jewish people and affirm the continuation of Jewish identity after placing faith in Jesus. We believe the distinction between Jew and Gentile is similar to the distinction between male and female (Galatians 3:28). Both are completely equal in the eyes of God. Yet they are called to remain distinct, but together, to embrace the true “one new man” or “one flesh” God intended. (Ephesians 2:11) (Ephesians 5:31)
We have written much about the Jew/Gentile relationship in previous articles. In short, we believe God gave many laws and feasts specifically to His covenant people, the Jewish people. And at the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15, those responsibilities were not put on Gentiles but remained on our Jewish brothers and sisters.
Dr. David Rudolph discusses the idea of Gentiles desiring to participate in Jewish Feasts, such as Passover, in his fantastic paper on the one new man.
“If a Gentile believer is drawn to live out Jewish-specific aspects of the Torah (e.g., celebrating Jewish festivals or keeping kosher), this should derive from their being led by the Spirit and not from a sense of covenantal responsibility, which is unique to the Jewish people. For the Gentile believer, it is a personal calling. Also, the individual should view this as something the Spirit is leading them to do and not something that God expects all Gentiles in the world to do (see Rom 14:5–6).
If you feel personally led to observe the Jewish feasts, that is amazing. We must be careful not to put this conviction on all Gentile believers.
As Paul writes in Romans 14:10
“Why do you look down on another believer?Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.”
Paul was addressing the Roman Church, who were dividing over what things were acceptable to eat. The Easter/Christmas argument can divide many Christians today.
Let’s remember the words of Scripture and ponder how Paul’s encouragement about food could relate to this conversation.
“I know and am convinced on the authority of the Lord Jesus that no food, in and of itself, is wrong to eat. But if someone believes it is wrong, then for that person, it is wrong.”
If you feel personally convicted about a particular aspect of a celebration or custom, then the Lord requires you to stop.
15 “And if another believer is distressed by what you eat, you are not acting in love if you eat it. Don’t let your eating ruin someone for whom Christ died.”
If you love Easter Egg hunts and chocolate bunnies, that’s amazing. If a brother or sister in Christ has different convictions and you go over to their home for dinner, don’t bring your Easter baskets and pass them out for dessert!
18 “If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. 19 So then, let us aim for harmony in the Church and try to build each other up.
20 Don’t tear apart the work of God over what you eat. Remember, all foods are acceptable, but it is wrong to eat something if it makes another person stumble.
21It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything else if it might cause another believer to stumble. 22 You may believe there’s nothing wrong with what you are doing, but keep it between yourself and God. Blessed are those who don’t feel guilty for doing something they have decided is right. 23 But if you have doubts about whether or not you should eat something, you are sinning if you go ahead and do it. For you are not following your convictions. If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning.”
Celebrating Passover is not the purest form of Easter, nor is it the biblical command given to Gentile followers of Jesus. However, God might speak to you and convict (which means convince) you that there is something else He wants you to do.
There are many claims about Easter being a pagan holiday with pagan rituals. Although some of the claims may have merit, many are simply opinions on an unknown origin lost to history.
There is nothing wrong with you and your family celebrating Easter, calling the celebration Easter, or going on an Easter Egg hunt. As believers, we should do all we can to make the focus of this day Jesus and His resurrection. As long as you are not participating in actual pagan worship rituals, you are in the clear.
There is nothing wrong with celebrating “Resurrection Sunday” void of all bunnies and eggs, as long as you are not looking down at your neighbor’s Easter Egg hunt with pagan disdain.
There is nothing wrong with celebrating Passover and enriching your life through the Jewish feast, as long as you don’t see this as the ideal form of Christianity and impose this conviction onto others.
We would also encourage you to celebrate Jewish feasts alongside and in partnership with Jewish people, either through a messianic synagogue or a relationship with Jewish members in your community.
In the end, it’s all about the miracle of our Messiah, Jesus, rising from the dead to defeat sin and death. Let’s celebrate this with joy and in unity with one another!
By David Blease
Gateway Center for Israel