Bonnets, baskets, eggs, new clothes and attending a church service sums up the Western world's approach to Easter. The season also makes a big monetary difference, especially in marketing clothing, food or candy, restaurants or flowers; even in collections at church!
The National Retail Federation estimates that approximately 80 percent of Americans will celebrate the holiday this year. Shoppers will spend an average of $135, for a total of $14.37 billion!
The average shopper spends $26 for a new outfit; $38 for food for the Easter meal; $19 for candy; $21 for gifts; $10 for flowers; $8 for decorations (figures rounded up).
Ninety million chocolate bunnies are produced in the U.S. every year. Americans also buy over 700 million Marshmallow Peeps and another 4.2 million in the shape of bunnies and other creatures. And they consume 16 billion jellybeans at Easter.
Even with declining church membership, the Christian "flock" still flocks to church on Easter. Church of England statistics for 2002 show that 1.5 million people attended services on Easter. Pollster George Barna writes of Americans: "Every year, many previously unchurched people return to a church for one or more Easter season services". Speaking plainly, that translates into income for churches. Christianity Today reported that evangelical church income in the U.S. for 200 was $2.66 trillion. The North American Mission Board's 2007 Budget projects that it will take in 46 percent of its annual income through Easter offerings.
Some readers will say, "That's a coarse way of looking at this Christian festival." Actually, it's a truthful way, because the holiday isn't Christian. Shocking? Consider:
• Eggs have long symbolized fertility and new life; they were used in the pagan spring festivals of Egypt, Persia and Rome.
• Rabbits and hares symbolize the same; they were incorporated into Easter in Germany, brought to the U.S. from there by immigrants, who may have been the first to make chocolate bunnies.
• Easter cards stem from Victorian England, where a stationer added a greeting to a drawing of a rabbit.
• The name Easter comes from Eostre, an Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring (and bears an unmistakable likeness to the Ishtar of Babylon and Assyria, whose name was pronounced “Easter”).
But now it’s Christian – isn’t it? The Roman Council of Nicea officially set Sunday as a day to celebrate Christ’s resurrection in A.D. 325. Throughout the subsequent centuries, as missionaries sought to convert various pagans throughout Europe, they incorporated customs of local pagan spring festivals (hence the connection with the pagan concepts mentioned above). Their rationale was that some elements of the pagan festivals paralleled the resurrection of Christ.
How so? The pagans often celebrated the rebirth of life that they witnessed in spring, which they attributed to their various gods.
Can you do that? I mean, can you perform nip/tuck surgery on biblical teachings, so as to make them more acceptable to non Christians? Doesn’t that mean that the non Christians aren’t actually converting to Christianity? Even if you should be willing to accept such a contradictory line of thinking, how could you legitimately relate pagan fertility celebrations to Christ’s resurrection?
Typically, the comeback from Christians will be, “Regardless of its negative trappings, Easter is the celebration of Christ’s resurrection!” Ah, therein lays the clincher: Even that is not true! Jesus wasn’t resurrected on Sunday morning!
Here are the indisputable facts from the Gospels:
• Jesus was crucified at midday and died at about 3 P.M. (Matthew 27:25-50).
• Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus hurried to bury Him before sunset that day (John 19:38-42).
• Jesus took great pain to foretell that He would be in the grave three days and three nights (Matthew 12:40, Mark 8:31, John 2:19).
A cloud of confusion swirls about that last point, as people attempt to force a Friday crucifixion and a Sunday resurrection into the Bible. You know the rationale: He supposedly meant parts of three days and three nights.
Read what He said. Read also when those who conspired to murder Him feared His disciples would claim He returned to life: “After three days” (Matthew 27:62-64). The precision of all references makes no sense if His resurrection could have happened anytime between 36-72 hours. It could only be a full 72 hours.
Moreover, Jesus rested His full credibility on this fact (Matthew 12:39-40).
To know when the resurrection was, you have to know when the crucifixion was. The Bible shows that it was actually midweek, on Wednesday; the resurrection was three days and three nights later, shortly before sunset on the seventh day.
Read the details. Just request or download our free and informative booklet: Holidays or Holy Days: Does It Matter Which Days We Keep?