Is the Word “Easter” Pagan? Should Christians Use the Name Easter?

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

Is using the word “Easter” pagan? Should Christians use the name Easter?

Is Easter Pagan?

Is using the word “Easter” pagan and is the word of pagan origin? Wait before you answer that.  Many believe that Easter has connections with paganism. Some things we grant are not from the Bible. Things like hiding and gathering Easter eggs, painting Easter eggs, people buying baby bunnies (bad idea), and other such traditions. The eggs and bunny are said to portray fertility, but that has nothing to do with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. On the other side, people are becoming more condemning of others for using the word Easter. They would rather call the Sunday that Jesus was raised from the dead as Resurrection Sunday. I do that too, but to call the day Easter is too much for some people. Are they right? Should we refrain from using this word? What is the origin of the word Easter?

Resurrection Sunday

Many churches celebrate the fact that Jesus was raised on the 3rd day so that we might be raised to eternal life someday (1 Cor 15:1-5). Some call it Easter while others refer to that day as Resurrection Sunday. So where does the word Easter come from? Is it unbiblical to call it that? Apparently, the Old English word Easter originates from the word “Ēastrun” and also “Ēastru” which comes from a pagan image called “Eastre” who is the mythological goddess of spring. This was originally celebrated by Northern European Saxons to honor the goddess and was always held during the spring equinox, but Easter or Resurrection Sunday is not always on the same day as the spring equinox. Looking at the way the world celebrates Easter, we can see that some of the associated symbols are steeped in paganism. The Easter bunny represents fertility while the eggs picture a period of new birth, but these are not associated with Scripture.

He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. (Matthew 28:6)

Heavily Commercialized

Like many Christian days of observance, Easter has become very commercialized, just like Christmas has. If the focus is on Easter eggs, the Easter bunny, and not on the resurrection of Jesus Christ, then it is clearly a pagan activity. Easter is good news for us because it assures us that we too will be raised to eternal life someday. Because He lives, we can live again for all time in His presence. What joy that will be. Clearly, Easter is heavily commercialized over much of the world which is celebrating with painted Easter eggs and the Easter bunnies, neither of which has any connection with Christianity. We should not be participating in such symbolic activities, in my opinion, if our conscience is not clear about it. If others conscience’ is fine with them about doing such activities and they still participate in worship of the risen Lord on Resurrection Sunday, I cannot judge them. To them, it is not sin.

The Passover

In some Christian circles, this celebration is often called Pascha and is connected to the Hebrew “Pesach” and is related to the word Passover. This is the most special of all the Jewish feasts as it commemorates the Exodus of Israel and the first and original Passover feast. It is no coincidence that the time that the Passover Lamb was sacrificed during Passover comes at the exact time of Jesus’ death on the cross. There is a Christian festival of Pascha which was first started in the mid-2nd century, and observing this is not sin, neither is it of pagan origin. We are free to observe this and free not to. Some churches do the foot washing on Maundy Thursday night, which was the night Jesus was betrayed and washed the feet of the disciples, however, it is not commanded as a new ordinance or command by Jesus. The new commandment was that we love one another, sacrificially, like Jesus did for us. That’s how people will be able to identify who Jesus’ disciples really are (i.e. John 13:34-35). Seeing the fruit shows us the root (John 15).

Stand Up (the Resurrection)

Virtually all languages refer to Easter as either a transliterated form of pascha or use resurrection in the name. When Martin Luther translated the Bible into German (New Testament in 1522), he chose the word Oster to refer to the Passover references before and after the Resurrection. Because the English Anglo/Saxon language originally derived from the Germanic, there are many similarities between German and English. This is why many English writers refer to the German language as the “Mother Tongue!” I find it highly interesting that the English word Easter is of German/Saxon origin. It is decidedly not of Babylonian origin as Alexander Hislop falsely claimed. The German equivalent of Easter is Oster. Ostern being the modern day equivalent is related to Ost which means the rising of the sun, or simply in English, east. Oster comes from the old Teutonic form of auferstehen / auferstehung, and get this: It means resurrection! The older Teutonic form comes from two words, “Ester” meaning first, and “stehen” meaning to stand. These two words combine to form erstehen which is an old German form of auferstehen, the modern day German word for resurrection!! To these ancient Germans, Easter mean “resurrection.”

The grave clothes of Jesus were still in place (John 20:1-7)

Going Too Far

If you are married, as I am, you probably have a wedding ring on your finger, but did you realize that the ring is an ancient pagan symbol? The difference for us is the ring represents to the world that I am hers and you are another’s, forever pledged to be faithful to one another. The wedding ring is a symbol of an unbroken circle of love between a man and a woman. It is certainly not a symbol of the couple’s worship of the spring goddess. My wedding ring doesn’t mean I’m a pagan or practicing paganism. It means I’m forever someone else’s spouse. The same principle should apply to people using the word Easter. We can carry things too far in our judging others by the names they use for Christian celebrations.

Passing Judgment

“Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment”

The Apostle Paul asks all of us, “Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand” (Rom 14:4).  They will stand before God for their choices, but they do not have to stand before us! He tells the church at Colossae to “let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath” (Col 2:16), and we are wise to heed that same advice. We should not judge people on whether they call it Easter or Resurrection Sunday or the Passover. If they are sincere in their observance of the risen Lord and they celebrate that great historical event, it doesn’t matter what name they use. We are not to judge others because we do not know their heart. If you are convinced it is okay to call it Easter or Resurrection Sunday or Passover, we should not judge others by what they call it. If they have peace in their own conscience about it, they are not sinning.


Finally, I pray you have put your trust in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. If that has not happened yet, my friend, you are in real danger of hell fire. And I mean, in immediate danger. You’re one breath, one heartbeat…one accident away from eternity when it will be too late to repent. Today is the best day to believe (2 Cor 6:2) since tomorrow is no guarantee. If Jesus Christ came today, here is your fate (Matt 7:21-23). This is why I plead with you as you read this, repent today…and I mean right now. Put your trust in Jesus Christ. If you do not, you will face God’s judgment after death guaranteed (Heb 9:27) or at Jesus Christ’s appearance (Rev 20:12-15), which could happen at any moment.

Here is some related reading for you: What is Maundy Thursday? Is it Important?

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: Study Bible: English standard version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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