It bothers me to no end that Christians commonly refer to the day on which Christ rose from the dead as “Easter.” But this is an unbiblical and syncretistic tradition that replaces the Lord’s day (the actual name of the day in Revelation 1:10) with the name of a fertility goddess. The name “Easter” comes from the name of the false god Eostre (pronounced “O-stre”) which is most likely the same figure known as Ostara from Germanic mythology. The church historian Bede in his work The Reckoning of Time explains the origin of the term:
“Eosturmanath has a name which is now translated ‘Paschal month,’ and which was once called after a goddess of theirs named Eostre, in whose honour feasts were celebrated in that month. Now they designate that Paschal season by her name, calling the joys of the new rite by the time-honoured name of the old observance.”
The eggs and bunnies of Easter trace back to the mythology of Eostre. That is why even those who are skeptical about the pagan background of Easter traditions are hesitant to use the term after they seriously study the issue.
Every time you say “Easter,” you are taking the name of a false god on your lips. We are forbidden by God to even mention the names of false gods. Exodus 23:13 says, “Pay attention to all that I have said to you, and make no mention of the names of other gods, nor let it be heard on your lips.” Joshua 23:7 repeats this command: “That you may not mix with these nations remaining among you or make mention of the names of their gods or swear by them or serve them or bow down to them.” David refused to speak the names of false gods as well: “The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names on my lips” (Ps 16:4).
Put yourself in the shoes of Jesus for a moment. How would you like it if people referred to the day on which you rose from the dead after a false god? What would happen if we replaced “Easter” with the name of a better known pagan goddess? Would it bother you if we referred to Easter as Asherah or Artemis instead? Satan wants to replace the celebration of the resurrection of Christ with a pagan fertility festival and the church is often complicit in this religious syncretism. Easter has become a replacement for the celebration of the resurrection in the same way the commercialization of Christmas replaces the celebration of the birth of Christ.
I feel sorry for Christians who only celebrate the resurrection of Christ once a year. The logic of our low view of the Lord’s supper that the supper is more memorable if we celebrate it infrequently has translated over to our celebration of the resurrection of Christ. How much more memorable will the resurrection of Christ be if we only celebrate it once a year! The church has created an Easter culture in which it is acceptable to only attend church once or twice a year. Because churches only celebrate the resurrection once a year, people figure that they only have to go to church once a year. What if churches tried as hard to reach the lost on this week as every week of the year? It is not wrong to place an additional emphasis on the resurrection of Christ during this time of the year or focus on the incarnation during Christmas. But at least Christmas has Christ in its name.
I suggest we use the term “Resurrection Sunday” instead of a term that traces its origins back to paganism. Unbiblical traditions are hard to break, but we need to start somewhere. The truth might be painful to hear, but it is better than using the name of a goddess to refer to the resurrection of Christ.