But if you look more closely at this holiday you’ll see that, despite its Christian veneer, it has done much damage in obscuring the truth of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. It’s a day built on a lie, not on the great truth of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice. There are two main problems with the Easter celebration. The first is that its customs and practices are based in ancient paganism, not in the Word of God.
A day with unchristian origins
As with Christmas, we find that the popular customs associated with the Easter celebration—rabbits, Easter-egg hunts and sunrise services—have nothing to do with the biblical record of Jesus Christ’s life, in this case His rising from the dead.
Where, then, did these practices originate?
The Encyclopaedia Britannica tells us, “As at Christmas, so also at Easter, popular customs reflect many ancient pagan survivals—in this instance, connected with spring fertility rites, such as the symbols of the Easter egg and the Easter hare or rabbit” (15th edition, Macropaedia, Vol. 4, p. 605, “Church Year”).
The word Easter appears once in the King James Version of the Bible, in Acts 12:4 Acts 12:4And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four squads of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.
American King James Version×, where it is a mistranslation. Reputable scholars and reference works point out that the Greek word rendered “Easter” in this verse is actually pascha, meaning Passover. Modern translations correctly translate this word “Passover”—as even the King James Version does in other verses (see Matthew 26:2 Matthew 26:2You know that after two days is the feast of the passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified.
American King James Version×, Matthew 26:17-19 Matthew 26:17-19 17 Now the first day of the feast of unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying to him, Where will you that we prepare for you to eat the passover? 18 And he said, Go into the city to such a man, and say to him, The Master said, My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at your house with my disciples. 19 And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them; and they made ready the passover.
American King James Version×; Mark 14:12 Mark 14:12And the first day of unleavened bread, when they killed the passover, his disciples said to him, Where will you that we go and prepare that you may eat the passover?
American King James Version×; 1 Corinthians 5:7 1 Corinthians 5:7Purge out therefore the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, as you are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:
American King James Version×).
Notice what Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words says about the term Easter here: “Pascha…mistranslated ‘Easter’ in Acts 12:4 Acts 12:4And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four squads of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.
American King James Version×, KJV, denotes the Passover…The term ‘Easter’ is not of Christian origin. It is another form of Astarte, one of the titles of the Chaldean goddess, the queen of heaven. The festival of Pasch [Passover] held by Christians in post-apostolic times was a continuation of the Jewish feast…From this Pasch the pagan festival of ‘Easter’ was quite distinct and was introduced into the apostate Western religion, as part of the attempt to adapt pagan festivals to Christianity” (1985, p. 192, “Easter”).
Easter’s ancient history
The Chaldean deity Astarte is in fact mentioned in the Bible. She is referred to as “Ashtoreth the abomination of the Sidonians” (2 Kings 23:13 2 Kings 23:13And the high places that were before Jerusalem, which were on the right hand of the mount of corruption, which Solomon the king of Israel had built for Ashtoreth the abomination of the Zidonians, and for Chemosh the abomination of the Moabites, and for Milcom the abomination of the children of Ammon, did the king defile.
American King James Version×) and, as Vine’s mentions, “the Queen of Heaven,” whose worship God condemned (Jeremiah 7:18 Jeremiah 7:18The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings to other gods, that they may provoke me to anger.
American King James Version×; Jeremiah 44:24-28 Jeremiah 44:24-28 24 Moreover Jeremiah said to all the people, and to all the women, Hear the word of the LORD, all Judah that are in the land of Egypt: 25 Thus said the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, saying; You and your wives have both spoken with your mouths, and fulfilled with your hand, saying, We will surely perform our vows that we have vowed, to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings to her: you will surely accomplish your vows, and surely perform your vows. 26 Therefore hear you the word of the LORD, all Judah that dwell in the land of Egypt; Behold, I have sworn by my great name, said the LORD, that my name shall no more be named in the mouth of any man of Judah in all the land of Egypt, saying, The Lord GOD lives. 27 Behold, I will watch over them for evil, and not for good: and all the men of Judah that are in the land of Egypt shall be consumed by the sword and by the famine, until there be an end of them. 28 Yet a small number that escape the sword shall return out of the land of Egypt into the land of Judah, and all the remnant of Judah, that are gone into the land of Egypt to sojourn there, shall know whose words shall stand, mine, or their’s.
American King James Version×).
Francis Weiser, professor of philosophy at Boston College, provides these facts: “The origin of the Easter egg is based on the fertility lore of the Indo-European races…The Easter bunny had its origin in pre-Christian fertility lore. Hare and rabbit were the most fertile animals our fore-fathers knew, serving as symbols of abundant new life in the spring season” ( Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs, 1958, pp. 233, 236).
Fertility rites and customs were incorporated into religious practices early in history. After Adam and Eve rejected God in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3), humanity looked for other explanations for life. Forces of nature and seasons that could not be controlled began to be viewed as gods, goddesses and supernatural powers to be worshipped and feared. Man soon created his own gods, contradicting God’s instruction against idolatry (Exodus 20:3-6 Exodus 20:3-6 3 You shall have no other gods before me.
4 You shall not make to you any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
5 You shall not bow down yourself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
6 And showing mercy to thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
American King James Version×; Deuteronomy 5:7-10 Deuteronomy 5:7-10 7 You shall have none other gods before me. 8 You shall not make you any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth: 9 You shall not bow down yourself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of them that hate me, 10 And showing mercy to thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.
American King James Version×).
“The pagan nations made statues or images to represent the powers they worshiped. Most of these idols were in the form of animals or human beings. But sometimes the idols represented celestial powers, like the sun, moon, and stars; forces of nature, like the sea and the rain; or life forces, like death and truth…
“In time an elaborate system of beliefs in such natural forces was developed into mythology. Each civilization and culture had its own mythological structure, but the structures were often quite similar. The names of the gods may have been different, but their functions and actions were often the same. The most prominent myth to cross cultural lines was that of the fertility cycle. Many pagan cultures believed that the god of fertility died each year during the winter but was reborn each year in the spring. The details differed among cultures, but the main idea was the same” (Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, 1995, “Gods, Pagan,” p. 508).
In pagan mythology the sun represented life. The sun supposedly died around the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. Complementing the rebirth of the sun were spring fertility rites, whose surviving symbols thread their way throughout Easter celebrations.
In addition to rabbits and eggs, another popular Easter custom had pre-Christian origins: “Also popular among Europeans and Americans on Easter is ham, because the pig was considered a symbol of luck in pre-Christian European culture” ( The Encyclopedia of Religion, 1987, p. 558, “Easter”).
God isn’t pleased with mixing pagan practices with true worship
It’s easy to see and prove the pagan and unchristian origins of the traditions associated with Easter. The question is why Christians should care whether Easter is pagan in origin. A popular opinion is that as long as the day is kept in honor of Jesus and His resurrection, it trumps any past pagan associations. Is this true?
God inspired the prophet Jeremiah to take Israel to task for their mixture of true religion and pagan practices. “Do not learn the way of the Gentiles; do not be dismayed at the signs of heaven, for the Gentiles are dismayed at them. For the customs of the peoples are futile…” (Jeremiah 10:2-3 Jeremiah 10:2-3 2 Thus said the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.
3 For the customs of the people are vain: for one cuts a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the ax.
American King James Version×).
This echoed God’s command to Israel when they entered the Promised Land: “The Lord your God will cut off before you the nations you are about to invade and dispossess. But when you have driven them out and settled in their land, and after they have been destroyed before you, be careful not to be ensnared by inquiring about their gods, saying, ‘How do these nations serve their gods? We will do the same.’ You must not worship the Lord your God in their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the Lord hates” (Deuteronomy 12:29-31 Deuteronomy 12:29-31 29 When the LORD your God shall cut off the nations from before you, where you go to possess them, and you succeed them, and dwell in their land;
30 Take heed to yourself that you be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before you; and that you inquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise.
31 You shall not do so to the LORD your God: for every abomination to the LORD, which he hates, have they done to their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods.
American King James Version×, New International Version).
When you consider the unchristian and unbiblical pagan origins of Easter traditions and remember God’s command to not be involved in the ways that other religions worship their gods, it becomes clear that God isn’t pleased with such customs in worshiping His Son and commemorating Jesus’ resurrection.
The second reason Easter isn’t a proper way to worship Jesus and remember His resurrection is that it entirely obscures the facts of His life, death and resurrection. When you celebrate Easter, you’re allowing yourself to be removed from the Passover.