When did Easter bocome as it is?

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    What do colored eggs and bunny rabbits have to do with the Messiah and his teachings? Have you ever wondered? Where did the Easter parade and hot-cross buns come from? What about Easter sunrise services?

    Millions of people assume that these time-hallowed customs are Christian and must therefore date back to the early Christian Church. Yet few know the real origin of Easter, or why the Christian-professing world, today, observes this particular holiday.

    The true story of the origin of Easter is intriguing. In this article, we will explore the earliest beginnings of the celebration of the spring festival called Easter, discover the origins of many of today's Easter customs, and see the amazing manner in which this ancient custom wove its way into the fabric of modern Christianity. No story is more astonishing.

    Day of a Pagan Goddess

    The English word Easter and the German Ostern come from a common origin (Eostur, Eastur, Ostara, Ostar), which to the Norsemen meant the season of the rising or growing sun -- the season of new birth. The word was used by ancient Europeans to designate the "Feast of New Life" in the spring.

    The word long antedates Christianity. Originally, it referred to the celebration of the spring sun, which had its birth in the East and brought new life upon the earth. The ancient Teutonic goddess of spring was addressed as Eostre. Easter, then, antedates Christianity by centuries.

    But what about the myriad customs that surround this day -- the chocolate bunnies, the Easter eggs, the parades?

    Again, you may be surprised to learn that red, blue, yellow or green eggs, as symbols of the renewal of life, were part of a custom that goes back centuries before the birth of the Messiah. Eggs, a symbol of fertility in many lands, are easily traceable to ancient pagan lore. So is the famous Easter bunny. (Only the chocolate rabbit is modern.) This rapidly breeding and multiplying animal was an ancient symbol of fecundity. And so modern children, eagerly hunting for Eastern eggs supposedly deposited by a rabbit, are unknowingly following an ancient fertility rite.

    What about the Easter parade? Does that, too, date back to the days of antiquity when pagans paraded in the springtime, donning new hats and clothes to honor their goddess of spring?

    The answer is yes. Scholars can trace the Easter parade to similar rites in ancient Germany, Greece, and even India.

    Hot-cross buns, interestingly enough, were eaten by pagan Saxons in honor of Easter, their goddess of light. The Mexicans and Peruvians had a similar custom. In fact, the custom of eating hot-cross buns was practically universal in the ancient pagan world!

    Easter fires, although not a widespread phenomenon today, are still lit in some northern European countries, notably Germany. This practice is clearly traceable to pagan antiquity.

    And what about Easter sunrise services? They too go back to the pagan custom of prostrating before the rising springtime sun. The goddess of light, Eastre or Ostera, was identified with the rising sun.

    Throughout the Middle Ages, this pagan custom was continued, "A universal celebration was held in the Middle Ages at the hour of sunrise. According to an old legend, the sun dances on Easter morning or makes three cheerful jumps at the moment of rising, in honor of Christ's Resurrection....All over Europe people would gather in open plains or on the crests of hills to watch the spectacle of sunrise on Easter Day. The moment of daybreak was marked by the shooting of cannon and the ringing of bells... In most places the crowds would pray as the sun appeared....From this medieval custom dates our modern SUNRlSE SERVICE held by many congregations in this country on Easter Sunday" (Weiser, The Easter Book, pp. 158 -- 159).

    Plainly, then, today's Easter has its roots deep in ancient paganism -- centuries before the birth of the Messiah -- and its rites have scarcely changed.

    Says Ralph Woodrow in Babylon Mystery Religion:

    The word itself, as the dictionaries and encyclopedias explain, comes from the name of a Pagan Goddess -- the goddess of Spring. Easter is but a more modern form of Ishtar, Eostre, Ostera, or Astarte. Ishtar, another name for Semiramis of Babylon, was pronounced as we pronounce "Easter" today! And so the name of the Spring Festival, "Easter," is definitely paganistic, the name being taken from the name of the Goddess (p. l52).

    The "Easter egg" was a sacred symbol of the ancient Babylonians. They believed an old fable about a huge egg which supposedly fell from heaven into the Euphrates River. From this egg, says the legend, the goddess Astarte (Easter) was hatched. From Babylon the idea of the mystic, sacred egg spread abroad to many nations.

    Admits the Encyclopedia Britannica:

    The egg as a symbol of fertility and of renewed life goes back to the ancient Egyptians and Persians, who had also the custom of colouring and eating eggs during their spring festival (article, "Easter").

    Thus eating Easter eggs is actually a modern form of participation in ancient spring fertility rites, and the worship of the goddess of fertility, "Easter"!

    The Romans called the name of this goddess of sexual fertility "Venus," and it is from this name that we derive the modern English words "venereal" and "venereal disease."

    What about the Easter "Rabbit"?

    This symbol, too, comes from ancient paganism. Says the Britannica:

    Like the Easter egg, the Easter hare came to Christianity from antiquity. The hare is associated with the moon in the legends of ancient Egypt and other peoples....Through the fact that the Egyptian word for hare, UM, means also "open" and "period," that hare came to be associated with the idea of periodicity, both lunar and human, and with the beginning of new life in both the young man and young woman, and so a symbol of fertility and of the renewal of life. As such, the hare became linked with Easter...eggs (ibid.).

    Says Alexander Hislop regarding the festival of Easter:

    Then look at Easter. What means the term Easter itself? It is not a Christian name. It bears its Chaldean origin on its very forehead. Easter is nothing else than Astarte, one of the titles of Beltis, the queen of heaven, whose name, as pronounced by the people of Nineveh, was evidently identical with that now in common use in this country. That name, as found by Layard on the Assyrian monuments, is Ishtar (The Two Babylons, p. 103).

    Admits the World Book Encyclopedia, "Its name may have come from Eostre, a Teutonic goddess of spring, or from the Teutonic festival of spring called Eostur" (article, "Easter," vol. 6, p. 25).

    Speaking of the Easter egg, this same authority says: "The custom of exchanging eggs began in ancient times. The ancient Egyptians and Persians often dyed eggs in spring colors and gave them to their friends as gifts. The Persians believed that the earth had hatched from a giant egg."

    Adds Hislop:

    Such is the history of Easter. The popular observances that still attend the period of its celebration amply confirm the testimony of history as to its Babylonian character. The hot cross buns of Good Friday, and the dyed eggs of Pasch or Easter Sunday, figured in the Chaldean rites just as they do now. The "buns," known too by that identical name, were used in the worship of the queen of heaven, the goddess Easter, as early as the days of Cecrops, the founder of Athens -- that is, 1500 years before the Christian era. "One species of sacred bread," says Byrant, "which used to be offered to the gods, was of great antiquity, and called Boun." Diogenes Laertius, speaking of this offering being made by Empedocles, describes the chief ingredients of which it was composed, saying, "He offered one of the sacred cakes called Boun, which was made of fine flour and honey." The prophet Jeremiah takes notice of this kind of offering when he says, "The children gather wood, the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven." The hot cross buns are not now offered, but eaten, on the festival of Astarte; but this leaves no doubt as to whence they have been derived (Hislop, p. 108).

    And what about the Easter egg?

    Again, Alexander Hislop tells us plainly:

    The origin of the Pasch eggs is just as clear. The ancient Druids bore an egg, as the sacred emblem of their order. In the Dionysiaca, or mysteries of Bacchus, as celebrated in Athens, one part of the nocturnal ceremony consisted in the consecration of an egg. The Hindoo fables celebrate their mundane egg as of a golden colour. The people of Japan make their sacred egg to have been brazen. In China, at this hour, dyed or painted eggs are used on sacred festivals, even as in this country. In ancient times eggs were used in the religious rites of the Egyptians and the Greeks, and were hung up for mystic purposes in their temples. From Egypt these sacred eggs can be distinctly traced to the banks of the Euphrates.

    Hislop continues:

    The classic poets are full of the fable of the mystic egg of the Babylonians; and thus its tale is told by Hyginus, the Egyptian, the learned keeper of the Palatine library at Rome, in the time of Augustus, who was skilled in all the wisdom of his native country: "An egg of wondrous size is said to have fallen from heaven into the river Euphrates. The fishes rolled it to the bank, where the doves having settled upon it, and hatched it, out came Venus, who afterwards was called the Syrian goddess"that is, Astarte. Hence the egg became one of the symbols of Astarte or Easter; and accordingly, in Cyprus, one of the chosen seats of the worship of Venus, or Astarte, the egg of wondrous size was represented on a grand scale (The Two Babylons, pp. 108-109).

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