Is Easter Pagan?
Warning: Always do your own research. Our intention is to only accept narratives by doing the research ourselves, and our purpose is never to offend. However, going against familiar narratives to get to the truth will produce offenses. We apologize in advance.
Not long ago, I was sitting with someone I respect. He said, “Easter is pagan." I inquired as to how he arrived at that knowledge, and he mentioned something about the goddess Ishtar and Easter being the same. I said Easter was a Germanic word for spring, so how could it be Ishtar?
No, Easter is not pagan today. "Well, Ric, when I search on google for the origins of Easter, it shows it had pagan roots." "Ah, the Internet," I said with a frustrated sigh. As researchers, to be correct, we must dig deeper. Easter is not from a pagan goddess. Ishtar was a Babylonian goddess that "SOUNDS LIKE" Easter; however, there is no link in etymology, as the article below will show. Here is a humorous video from Lutheran Satire on this topic.
This article explains the background of Easter from Baylor University. "Well, Ric, what about Easter bunnies and eggs? Aren't they pagan?" They are not pagan, and they are recent modern inventions. The article provides details.
After reading the article, we continue studying why Christians celebrate Easter Sunday.
A Time for the Gospel
Those against Easter and Christmas have the same talking points. "Christmas and Easter are pagan." The assumption is that a good Christian will not celebrate this time of the year because someone said it is pagan, or worse, we are worshipping pagan deities.
Worshipping pagan deities is a serious charge. When one worships a pagan deity, there are several rituals of literal worship. Today, I had lunch with a friend who shared that his definition of pagan is consumerism—which he defined as buying easter eggs, the stores marking up eggs in the store, and buying candy and toy bunnies. In Jeremiah, there are several instances of pagan worship. Jeremiah 7:18 For Easter and Christmas, we see no one worshipping deities as defined by pagans. I think people project consumerism as paganism, but I believe this is not the case. Consumerism is a heart issue and cannot be judged from the outside.
If these accusations are not true about Easter, is there a problem of laziness because of a lack of research on our part? Worse, if a group in our circle of influence believes this and we do not know why they think this is true, are we giving into a type of adult peer pressure? A passionate argument of "Easter is pagan" can come from a good motivation, but the person echoing this comment may not have done any research. The person does not want to offend God. Good idea. However, if proper research is done, we will find that the concerns are not valid to actual history. Why are people sharing about something they themselves have not researched?
We can be at peace to celebrate Easter because Christ's resurrection gave us peace with God. What if the result is to focus on not celebrating Easter because it is pagan, and we lose an opportunity to share why we celebrate Easter and do not present the Gospel? Like Christmas, this time of the year is to celebrate the Gospel.
Another close friend came to Christ just over a year and prayed for his family to come to the knowledge of salvation. His youngest sister shared with him that she had no idea Easter was about the Lord Jesus Christ, and she was unchurched. My friend used the opportunity to share the Gospel, and she came to Christ! Three weeks later, she died of a heart attack! Christmas and Easter are a time to focus on Christ and what He did for us on that horrid tree.
Others believe Easter is pagan and tell us not to celebrate Easter for another reason: to celebrate the Jewish Passover.
Should a Christian celebrate Passover (Jewish) or Easter (Christian)?
Now that we have settled that Easter is not pagan, we can move on to another problem. Our faith in Christ has Jewish roots. The Jewish nation was founded on leaving Egypt as slaves to become a nation around their belief in God. To leave Egypt, they performed the Passover meal of the lamb. But first, those who believed in God were warned that the Destroyer would come and kill the firstborn children throughout the land. To prevent the Destroyer from visiting their homes, the Hebrews had to kill, eat and sprinkle the blood of a lamb on their doorposts. Believing in God's word and acting on it caused the Destroyer to "Passover" the house. Therefore, up to 1.5-2.5 million, people left Egypt. The Jews were to celebrate Passover every year. The feast is called “unleavened bread” because the Jews left Egypt quickly without leavening their bread. Our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified on the Passover without sin (because He is God) and was designated the Passover lamb. Exodus 12.
Yet, for some reason, Christians celebrate Easter versus Passover. Why should that be? Simply because of calendars, the resurrection, and unleavened bread.
Christians view the first day of the week (Sunday) as the day Christ rose from the dead and therefore call it "the Lord’s Day." The celebration of Easter is not linked to the Jewish calendar but to a day. Sunday became the traditional day for worship for Christians (Jews and Gentiles in Christ), and it was natural to celebrate the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ on Sunday. The resurrection symbolizes Christ's defeat of sin and death. We can find records of the early church celebrating the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ on Sunday, the first day of the week. We can also find documents that both Jews and Gentiles kept the Sabbath and also worshipped on the Lord’s Day. Acts 20:7-12
Judaism celebrates Passover because they do not accept the Lord Jesus Christ as their Messiah. Some Jewish people that believe in Jesus Christ as their Messiah will still honor the Passover. "Remember, Ric, that Passover is not the end of the story," said Dr. Daniel Goepfrich. He paused and continued, "The resurrection is the end of the story, which is why we celebrate the resurrection." (paraphrase)
Jewish people also use a calendar based on the new moon, which can put the Passover and unleavened bread during the week. In other words, Judaism is not tied to celebrating the Passover on any given day, such as Sunday but does celebrate Passover on the 14th day of Nissan, which can be a different day of the week each year. Notice that Passover is a weeklong celebration, and Christianity instead focuses on the day of His resurrection.
Christians believe that the feast of unleavened bread, which removes sin in our lives because we exchange His righteousness for our sinfulness, was fulfilled in the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, Who made atonement with His sinless blood for all mankind. Jesus is the Passover lamb. In Contrast, the Passover focuses on the Exodus of Egypt (a type and shadow of what the Lord Jesus Christ would fulfill), which now finds fulfillment in Christ's resurrection. Heb 7:26-8:5. Christians focus on Easter Sunday because they recognize Christ as the Messiah and Christ’s resurrection is on Sunday, the first day of the week. Mark 16:9
Why don't Christians celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread? The symbolism of yeast is sin. Therefore, in preparation for Passover, one is to remove sin in one's life by cleaning your house of all things touched or might have been touched by yeast (ovens, utensils, mixing bowls, etc.). If you have ever tried to go a week without yeast products, it is tough to accomplish. A person cannot work hard enough to have sin/yeast removed from their life. We are thankful for the Lord Jesus's sacrifice as the Passover lamb to wash our sins away with His blood. Therefore, this feast is fulfilled in our Lord Jesus Christ.
We ask the final question, is Easter pagan? No. Should Christians celebrate Passover? We found that immersing ourselves in learning how Christ fulfilled most feasts is a beneficial experience. Seder meals (like the last supper) are informative for Christian believers to understand that Christianity is rooted in Judaism. The focus of Passover is the blood on the doorposts. The subject of Easter Sunday is the blood of Christ on the cross to forgive our sins and that He is risen from the dead, causing our sin debt to God to be "finished," as Christ said on the cross. Christ rose from the dead and was witnessed by over 500 people, which is our promise of eternal life. 1 Cor 15:6. No other person in history was raised from the dead. 1 Cor 15:13. Our God has risen!
We can focus on the Passover, which points to the lamb's blood in Egypt, or believers in Christ can celebrate the fulfillment of Passover on Easter Sunday and the resurrection of Christ! And if you like, add Easter bunnies and cute eggs for kids that point them to new life in Christ.
Enjoy your holiday. People are open this season to know what Easter is about, so share the Good News! Christ has risen!
 Owen Jarus 01 February 2014, “Ishtar Gate: Grand Entrance to Babylon,” livescience.com, September 22, 2022, https://www.livescience.com/43036-ishtar-gate.html#:~:text=The%20Ishtar%20Gate%2C%20named%20after.
Liz Abrams and Troy Lacey, “Did 600,000 Men Leave Egypt with Moses?,” Answers in Genesis (Answers in Genesis, September 20, 2022), https://answersingenesis.org/bible-questions/did-600000-men-leave-egypt-moses/.
 Nissan Dubov, “Pesach,” Chabad.org (Chabad), accessed March 23, 2023, https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/2313774/jewish/The-Jewish-Festivals.htm.