A well-known and generally respected non-profit broadcasting company included this paragraph in their March 27, 2016 electronic newsletter, repeating most of the "Christians stole Easter from Pagans" claims that get republished every year without anyone bothering to check on whether they're remotely true. I have sent them an e-mail asking them to fact-check before they republish the same content next year.
According to the article:
The word "Easter" and most of the secular celebrations of the holiday come from pagan traditions. Anglo Saxons worshipped Eostre, the goddess of springtime and the return of the sun after the long winter. According to legend, Eostre once saved a bird whose wings had frozen during the winter by turning it into a rabbit. Because the rabbit had once been a bird, it could still lay eggs, and that rabbit became our Easter Bunny. Eggs were a symbol of fertility in part because they used to be so scarce during the winter. There are records of people giving each other decorated eggs at Easter as far back as the 11th century.
Here's an excerpt from my e-mail response:
Some of the "legends" mentioned above were invented as late as 1987. But we'll start with the ones that were invented earlier.
Most of the Christian world calls Easter "Pasche," after Passover. Saxons in England called the month of April Eastormonath, so the first part of that word got attached to the Christian practices of the season.
Some of the "Christians-stole-EVERYTHING-from-Pagan" school of thought claim that English-speaker's use of the word "Easter" for the holiday that the rest of the Christian world calls "Pasch" proves that Christians throughout the world stole the whole notion of Christ's resurrection from ancient Saxon religions which aren't even recorded in history until centuries AFTER Christians first started celebrating the Resurrection in Rome and Athens.
It is almost certain that Eastormonath was named after a Saxon deity (Bede's De Temporum - "About Times," circa 725AD), the same way March was named after the Roman god of war. However, there is no other record of this deity in any ancient writings. Period. So there is no more proof that the Saxons of Bede's time were still practicing "Eostre-worship" than there is proof that Americans are worshipping Roman gods because we still call March "March."
Outside of the name itself, everything we "know" about the "goddess" Eostre was INVENTED by Jacob Grimm in 1835. The notion that she was accompanied by a hare was invented some time later by the same man. I have begged "Christians-stole-Easter-from-Pagans" writers to find one source supporting the existence of the "goddess" Eoestra or of her pet hare as defined by Jacob Grimm from before 1835. They can't because there are are none.
Moving forward to 1987: The myth of the Easter bunny starting out as a bird was invented by self-help author Sarah Ban Breathnach (pronounced "bon bannock") in 1987. That's right. look at that date again. 1987, the same year President Reagan asked Gorbachev to "Tear Down This Wall." Hardly an "ancient legend. (BTW Ban Breathnach invented a number of other "ancient" Easter traditions and practices which never existed but which have found their way into the "canon" of the "Christians stole EVERYTHING from Pagans" disciples.)
Again, I have begged "Christians-stole-Easter-from-Pagans" writers to find one reference to the "bird-bunny" myth from before 1987. They can't, because there aren't any.
Incidentally, the egg-hiding Easter Hare seems to have been invented by Austrian Lutherans in the late 16th century - hardly by pre-Christian Saxons in England.
Okay, that's more than enough for this note. Several years ago, I published my research on these topics on my Christmas web page here: http://familychristmasonline.com/other_ ... easter.htm
Yes, I'm a Christian. I also used to do fact-checking for the country's top social studies textbook publishers. Just because something keeps getting repeated, even by people who should know better, doesn't make it true.
The fact is that Easter is the most Christian and least Pagan of all holy days, and we have every right to celebrate our faith and Christian traditions without some modern day writer nagging us that pagans "thought of it first."
Sorry if that seems a little harsh. Enjoy spring any way you see fit. Enjoy Easter any way you see fit. Just don't keep telling me that I'm being unfair to other cultures when I do the same.
Happy Easter All,