From bunnies to resurrection, all have roots in the pagan holiday Ostara.
Those who celebrate Christian Easter are familiar with the traditions: celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, eating a large meal with family and friends, and the odd combination of eggs, bunnies, and candy. Somehow the latter seems disparate, perhaps another tradition started by the retail industry, but it actually makes complete sense after digging to find the origins of the ritual.
Easter is basically the festival of Ostara. What is Ostara? Well first, it is a pagan holiday that is still celebrated, most notably by Wiccans, on March 20. It was used to celebrate the Spring Equinox, also known as the beginning of the Spring season.
Ostara was a fertility goddess who was celebrated by the growth of new life. This included the growing of trees and babies. The connection between Jesus Christ’s resurrection and Ostara’s focus on the growth of new life is quite similar. The name “Easter” also comes from “Ostara.” Don’t believe it? Say “Ostara” three times fast. Sounds like “Easter,” right?
Ostara is not a forgotten deity in mainstream culture. She has become a staple in the new TV show American Gods. Here she is showing off her Spring powers:
Now the bunny and eggs have always seemed odd. But looking back at the Ostara celebration it makes sense. The bunny, because of its high reproductive rate, was seen as Ostara’s sacred animal. She also gave a special bunny the power to lay multicolored eggs. Children would also present eggs to the goddess to as a sign of fidelity. Ostara was so delighted by it she would have her bunny minions return the eggs in baskets to the children. Sounds pretty familiar.
How did the ritual get adopted by Christianity? First, priests who were trying to convert pagan children would offer money for the eggs, which evolved into the finding of eggs for treats – Easter egg hunts. It also seemed to be a tactic used for conversion. Instead of trying to force an entirely new system of belief, they would modify existing rituals to relate them to Christianity, such as Christmas.
So, if you are celebrating Ostara on March 20 or Easter on April 1, know that there are more similarities than you may think.