The Mustard Seed
by Pastor Ron Friedrich
Someone told me that the word "Easter" comes from pagan religion. Is that true?
Yes, that is true. The name "Easter" does not come from the Bible and it has nothing to do with the resurrection of Christ. "Easter" comes from an ancient pagan fertility festival that occurred in the spring. We see frequent references to these pagan worship practices in the Old Testament, most notably the worship of Baal and Asherah, who were the Canaanite god and goddess of fertility -- rain and agriculture. So it is natural that their special holiday is in the spring. Their priests and prophets taught that when Baal and Asherah had sex together, the land received favorable weather and good crops. The worship of Baal and Asherah involved temple prostitution and child sacrifice. The most notable promoters of this religion in Israel were Ahab's Phoenician wife, Jezebel, and her daughter Athaliah. (See 1 Kings 16:29 - 22:53.)
The goddess Asherah went by various names in different languages and cultures. Hittites called her Asherdu. In the area that today we call Iraq, she was Ishtar. Greeks called her Aphrodite and Artimis. In Syria she was Astarte. Germanic tribes called her Eostre, from which we derive our English words "east" and "Easter." Asherah's formal title of respect by her worshippers was "the Queen of Heaven" (Jeremiah 7:18).
When people in these lands became believers in Christ, they change the focus of the spring holiday from the pagan cult to the resurrection of Christ, which follows the Jewish celebration of Passover. Unfortunately, these former pagans forgot to change the name of the spring holiday to something fitting for our Savior. And they preserved many of the traditions associated with their former fertility religions, such as Easter eggs and Easter bunnies -- symbols that have nothing to do with Christ's resurrection.
I am uncomfortable using "Easter" as the name of our Christian holiday. I prefer to call it "Resurrection Sunday," never mind that even the word "Sunday" also has pagan roots, as do our English names for the other days of the week. However, I don't completely avoid the term "Easter," because most people don't know the origins of the word, and they innocently associate it with the resurrection of Christ.