The Nameless Horror

PSA: A History Of Easter

Because I so enjoy seeing the same ‘Easter is pagan lol eggs Eostre rofl’ horseshit bounce around Twitter every year, I bring education:

  1. Easter moves around every year because it’s tied to Passover, which is a lunar festival. IIRC, the different Gospels give a slightly different point during Passover (which is a week-long event) for the actual crucifixion, but they all agree that it was somewhere at Passover. As such, it was the only Christian festival allowed under the barkingly moronic sola scriptura jazz put about by the Puritans of Cromwell and the Scottish Kirk. It doesn’t move around because mythical pagan fairy people had their own movable festival taken away.
  2. The method of figuring out the date was set at - and I’m doing this from memory, so I may have the exact place and time details wrong, but the time is roughly accurate and the main thing - the Council of Nicea around 300 CE. This was well before the Christianisation of Britain and northern Europe and there was no obvious reason why a bunch of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cultists would decide to co-opt festivals occurring hundreds or thousands of miles away and well outside their own cultural milieu.
  3. 'Eostre' gets a one-line mention in Bede’s history of These Here Isles, from well before his own time and thus not from his own observation (IIRC) and there is absolutely no evidence from anywhere else to suggest that there was such a festival/deity. Bede’s history wasn’t exactly perfect, and it looks like this was one of the errors in it.
  4. Giving eggs is a very, very old and very Christian Easter tradition, and is the flip end of pancake day. Eggs were one of the things people gave up for Lent (along with meat and nice things and fun), but they were also readily available to even the poor (unlike, say, a nice side of bacon) and easy to decorate (unlike, say, a nice side of bacon). Thus they were a pretty little luxury people could give each other to celebrate the fact that they were allowed to eat them again. And they’re conveniently gift-sized. IIRC, one of the late-Saxon Edwards (possibly The Confessor) gave away over a thousand of them to his court one Easter. By Elizabethan times, eggs were a bit old hat, but chocolate had begun to be imported from the New World. The new end-of-Lent luxury gift amongst the rich became choccies, made into the shape of eggs to keep up the old tradition. People don’t give each other eggs because mythical pagan fairy people did it.
  5. I’ll give you the Easter Bunny. How that came about I don’t know. But I do know it originated in Germany and was first recorded somewhere in the Renaissance. A very long time after any actual real pagan stuff died out.

Yes, there’s all sorts of fertility symbolism in there and I don’t doubt a pile of old folk tradition has become attached to Easter over the years (which, incidentally, happens to be the normal way round for these things to happen), but anyone prattling on about the wicked Christians and their horrible Egg Festival stealing needs to shut up. I’m an atheist, and there’s plenty of good reasons to despise/take the piss out of various churches around the world, but this particular tittering nonsense every damn year isn’t one. Eat your chocolate egg and be quiet.

I’d also recommend reading The Stations of the Sun by Ronald Hutton to learn more. Fascinating, if somewhat lengthy, book. Did you know that the legend of Robin Hood was first told by, and originated from, the field of Morris dancing? Strange but apparently true.