by Ruel Thompson

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“What about the customs of Easter?”


Lent - its origins


From where then did this observance originate? Lent is a period of 40 days preceding the observance of Easter, where the observers are expected to fast or cease from having the use of some other “luxury.” Like the majority of modern, so-called Christian practices, its beginning can be traced to heathen practices. The forty days' abstinence of Lent was directly borrowed from the worshippers of the Babylonian goddess. Such a Lent of forty days, 'in the spring of the year' is still observed by the Yezidis or Pagan Devil-worshippers of Koordistan, (Layard's Nineveh and Babylon, pg. 93) who have inherited it from their early masters, the Babylonians.
Also, such a Lent of forty days was held in spring by the Pagan Mexicans, we read in Humboldt, where he gives account of Mexican observances. 'Three days after the vernal equinox...began a solemn fast of forty days in honour of the sun'. There was also a Lent of forty days observed in Egypt, as may be seen on consulting Wilkinson's Egyptians. This Egyptian Lent of forty days, we are informed by Landseer in his Sabean Researches, was held expressly in commemoration of Adonis or Osiris the great mediatorial god.
The rape of Proserpine seems to have been commemorated, in a similar manner, at the same time, for Julius Firmicus informs us that for 'forty nights' the 'wailing for Proserpine' continued, and from Arnobius we learn that the fast which the Pagans observed, called 'Castus' or the 'sacred' fast, was, by the Christians in his time, believed to have been primarily in imitation of the long fast of Ceres, when for many day she determinedly refused to eat on account of her 'excess of sorrow' that is, on account of the loss of her daughter Proserpine, when carried away by Pluto, the god of hell.
As the stories of Bacchus, or Adonis and Proserpine, though originally distinct, were made to join on and fit in to one another, so that Bacchus was called Liber, and his wife Ariadne, Lebera (one of the names of Proserpine). It is highly probable that the forty days' fast of Lent was made in later times to have reference to both.
Among the Pagans Lent seems to have been an indispensable preliminary to the great annual festival in commemoration of the death and resurrection of Tammuz, which was celebrated by alternate weeping and rejoicing.
In his book The Two Babylons, Alexander Hislop observed that many atrocities were commemorated during the 'sacred fast' or Pagan Lent, as described by Arnobius and Clemens. In the early 19th century, German explorer Alexander von Humboldt noted the practice among the pagans in Mexico, being held in the spring. His account states: Three days after the vernal equinox…began a solemn fast of forty days in honour of the sun. A Lent of forty days was also commemorated in Egypt. According to by English scholar John Landseer, in his Sabean Researches (1823), an Egyptian Lent of forty days was held in honour of Osiris.

The origins of the Hot Cross Buns


The hot cross buns of Good Friday, and the dyed eggs of Pasch or Easter Sunday, figured in the Chaldean rites just as they do now. The 'buns' known too by that identical name, were used in the worship of the queen of heaven, the goddess Easter, as early as the days of Cecrops, the founder of Athens - that is, 1500 years before the Christian era. 'One species of sacred bread' says Byrant ('Mythology') 'which used to be offered to the gods, was of great antiquity, and called Boun'. Diogenes Laertius, speaking of this offering being made by Empedocles, describes the chief ingredients of which it was composed, saying, 'He offered one of the sacred cakes called Boun, which was made of fine flour and honey'
The prophet Jeremiah takes notice of this kind of offering when he says 'The children gather wood, the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven' (Jeremiah 7:18. ) The hot cross buns are not now offered, but eaten, on the festival of Astarte, but this leaves no doubt as to where they have been derived.

The origins of the easter eggs coloured and later, chocolate eggs


The egg, an ancient symbol of new life, has been associated with pagan festivals celebrating spring. From a Christian perspective, Easter eggs are said to represent Jesus’ emergence from the tomb and resurrection. Decorating eggs for Easter is a tradition that dates back to at least the 13th century, according to some sources, but there is much evidence of eggs being a part of Pagan worship long before then. Easter egg hunts and egg rolling are two popular egg-related traditions. In the U.S., the White House Easter Egg Roll, a race in which children push decorated, hard-boiled eggs across the White House lawn, is an annual event held the Monday after Easter. The first official White House egg roll occurred in 1878, when Rutherford B. Hayes was president. The event has no religious significance, although some people have considered egg rolling symbolic of the stone blocking Jesus’ tomb being rolled away, leading to his resurrection.
The actual origin of the Pasch (later incorporated into and known as 'Easter' ) eggs is clear. The ancient Druids bore an egg, as the sacred emblem of their order. (Davies's Druids p. 208) In the Dionysiaca, or mysteries of Bacchus, as celebrated in Athens, one part of the nocturnal ceremony consisted in the consecration of an egg. (Ibid. p. 207)
The Hindu fables celebrate their mundane egg as of a golden colour. The people of Japan make their sacred egg to have been brazen. In China, even today, dyed or painted eggs are used on sacred festivals, even as in this country. (Rev. James Johnston, of Glasgow, former missionary at Amoy, in China). In ancient times eggs were used in the religious rites of the Egyptians and the Greeks, and were hung up for mystic purposes in their temples. (Wilkinson) From Egypt these sacred eggs can be distinctly traced to the bands of the Euphrates.
The classic poets are full of the fable of the mystic egg of the Babylonians, and thus its tale is told by Hyginus, the Egyptian, the learned keeper of the Palatine library at Rome, in the time of Augustus, who was skilled in all the wisdom of his native country. 'An egg of wondrous size is said to have fallen from heaven into the river Euphrates. The fishes rolled it to the bank, where the doves having settled upon it, and hatched it, out came Venus, who afterwards was called the Syrian Goddess' (Llyoinus) that is, Astarte. Hence the egg became one of the symbols of Astarte or Easter and accordingly, in Cyprus, one of the chosen seats of the worship of Venus, or Astarte, the egg of wondrous size was represented on a grand scale. (see picture).
The occult meaning of this mystic egg of Astarte, in one of its aspects had reference to the ark (Bryant) during the time of the flood, in which the whole human race were shut up, as the chick is enclosed in the egg before it is hatched. If any be inclined to ask, how could it ever enter the minds of men to employ such an extraordinary symbol for such a purpose, the answer is, first, the sacred egg of Paganism, as already indicated, is well known as the 'mundane egg' that is, the egg in which the world was shut up. Interestingly, the origin of one of Easter's most elegant decorations, the Faberge egg began its illustrious life at this same festival of Easter/Astarte/Pasche. The first Faberge egg, or imperial egg, was requested by Czar Alexander III as an Easter gift for his wife, Czarina Maria.
Now the Church adopted this mystic egg of Astarte, and consecrated it as a symbol of Messiah's resurrection. A form of prayer was even appointed to be used in connection with it. Pope Paul fifth teaching his superstitious votaries thus to pray at Easter, 'Bless, O Lord, we beseech thee, this thy creature of eggs, that it may become a wholesome sustenance unto thy servants, eating it in remembrance of our Lord Jesus Christ...etc' (Bunsen)

Easter Candy


Easter is the second best-selling candy holiday in America, after Halloween. Among the most popular sweet treats associated with this day are chocolate eggs, which date back to early 19th century Europe. Eggs have long been associated with Easter as a symbol of new life and Jesus’ resurrection. Another egg-shaped candy, the jelly bean, became associated with Easter in the 1930s. According to the National Confectioners Association, over 16 billion jelly beans are made in the U.S. each year for Easter, enough to fill a giant egg measuring 89 feet high and 60 feet wide.
For the past decade, the top-selling non-chocolate Easter candy has been the marshmallow Peep, a sugary, pastel-coloured confection. Bethlehem, Pennsylvania-based candy manufacturer Just Born (founded by Russian immigrant Sam Born in 1923) began selling Peeps in the 1950s. The original Peeps were handmade, marshmallow-flavoured yellow chicks, but other shapes and flavours were later introduced, including chocolate mousse bunnies.

Easter Parade


In New York City, the Easter Parade tradition dates back to the mid-1800s, when the upper crust of society would attend Easter services at various Fifth Avenue churches then stroll outside afterward, showing off their new spring outfits and hats. Average citizens started showing up along Fifth Avenue to check out the action. The tradition reached its peak by the mid-20th century, and in 1948, the popular film Easter Parade was released, starring Fred Astaire and Judy Garland and featuring the music of Irving Berlin. The title song includes the lyrics: “In your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it/You’ll be the grandest lady in the Easter parade.” The Easter Parade tradition lives on in Manhattan, with Fifth Avenue from 49th Street to 57th Street being shut down during the day to traffic. Participants often sport elaborately decorated bonnets and hats. The event has no religious significance, and today, other cities across America also have their own parades.

And now what of the Easter Bunny?


According to the University of Florida's Centre for Children's Literature and Culture, the origin of the celebration — and the origin of the Easter Bunny — can be traced back to 13th-century, pre-Christian Germany, when people worshiped several gods and goddesses. The Teutonic deity Eostra was the goddess of spring and fertility, and feasts were held in her honour on the Vernal Equinox. Her symbol was the rabbit because of the animal’s high reproduction rate.
Spring also symbolized new life and rebirth; eggs were an ancient symbol of fertility. According to History.com, Easter eggs represent Jesus' resurrection. However, this association came much later when Roman Catholicism became the dominant religion in Germany in the 15th century and merged with already ingrained pagan beliefs. The first Easter Bunny legend was documented in the 1500s. By 1680, the first story about a rabbit laying eggs and hiding them in a garden was published.
These legends were brought to the United States in the 1700s, when German immigrants settled in Pennsylvania Dutch country, according to the Centre for Children's Literature and Culture.The tradition of making nests for the rabbit to lay its eggs in soon followed. Eventually, nests became decorated baskets and colourful eggs were swapped for candy, treats and other small gifts.The goddess Eastre’s earthly symbol was the rabbit, which was also known as a symbol of fertility. Since rabbits and hares give birth to large litters in the early spring, it’s understandable that the rabbit is the symbol of fertility.
The legend of the Easter Bunny bringing eggs appears to have been brought to the United States by settlers from south-western Germany. The German tradition of the Easter Bunny or “Oschter Haws” migrated to America in the 1800s, likely accompanying German immigrants, many of whom settled in Pennsylvania. Over the past 200 years, the Easter Bunny has become the most commercially recognized symbol of Easter. In legend, the Easter Bunny, also called the Easter Hare and the Spring Bunny, brings baskets filled with coloured eggs, candy, and sometimes toys to the homes of children on the night before Easter, in much the same way as Santa Claus is said to deliver presents on Christmas Eve. The Easter Bunny will either put the baskets in a designated place or hide them somewhere in the house or garden for the children to find when they wake up in the morning, giving rise to the tradition of the Easter egg hunt.
You won’t find them in the Bible, but many cherished Easter traditions have been around for centuries. The most prominent secular symbol of the Christian holiday, the Easter bunny reportedly was introduced to America by the German immigrants who brought over their stories of an egg-laying hare. The decoration of eggs is believed to date back to at least the 13th century, while the rite of the Easter parade has even older roots. Other traditions, such as the consumption of Easter candy, are among the modern additions to the celebration of this early springtime holiday. Should Christian parents allow their children to participate in traditional activities that refer to the Easter Bunny? This is a question both parents and church leaders struggle with. There is nothing essentially evil about the Easter Bunny, unless it is used to promote the goddess of spring or fertility rites. What is important is our focus. If our focus is on Christ and not the Easter Bunny, our children will understand that, like Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny is merely a symbol.

Shrove Tuesday


Shrove Tuesday is the day before Lent starts on Ash Wednesday. The name Shrove comes from the old middle English word 'Shriven' meaning to go to confession to say sorry for the wrong things you've done. Lent always starts on a Wednesday, so people went to confessions on the day before. This became known as Shriven Tuesday and then Shrove Tuesday.
The other name for this day, Pancake Day, comes from the old English custom of using up all the fattening ingredients in the house before Lent, so that people were ready to fast during Lent. The fattening ingredients that most people had in their houses in those days were eggs and milk. A very simple recipe to use up these ingredients was to combine them with some flour and make pancakes! The custom of making pancakes still continues today, and in many U.K. towns and villages pancake races (where people race with a frying pan while tossing a pancake in it!) and pancake tossing competitions are held on Shrove Tuesday.
In other countries Shrove Tuesday is known as 'Mardi Gras'. This means 'Fat Tuesday' in French, a great day of feasting, dancing and merriment and also comes from the idea of using up food before Lent. It was especially sensationalized in New Orleans. Many countries round the world have Mardi Gras celebrations and carnivals. Some of the most famous are in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, New Orleans in the U.S.A., Venice in Italy and Sydney in Australia.
There is a spiritual signature which bears witness to the spirit of these traditions. It is called Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras. It is the custom of living it up to get our fill of all the enjoyment the world has to offer before setting off to “Church” in mock repentance on Ash Wednesday. Such celebrations are an indication of the spirit behind the facade.

The early Pagan origins of Ash Wednesday


This ritual “imposition of the ashes” is purportedly in imitation of the repentant act of covering oneself in dust and ashes. The marking of believers on Ash Wednesday is done in combination of another extra-biblical routine called “Lent.” Despite Christ's command to his followers to abstain from the practice of disfiguring their faces during fasting, it has become a regular practice. He also told us to 'wash our faces' during a fast. (scriptures)
The practice of putting ashes on one's forehead has been known from ancient times. In the Nordic pagan religion, placing ashes above one's brow was believed to ensure the protection of the Norse god, Odin. This practice spread to Europe during the Vikings conquests. This laying on of ashes was done on Wednesday, the day named for Odin, Odin's Day. Interestingly enough, according to Wikepedia, one of Odin's names is Ygg. The same is Norse for the World Ash. This name Ygg, closely resembles the Vedic name Agni in pronunciation. The Norse practice which has become known as Ash Wednesday was itself, drawn from the Fedic Indian religion. Ashes were believed to be the seed Agni, the Indian fire god. It is from this name that the Latins used for fire, ignis. It is from this root word that the English language got the words, ignite, igneous and ignition. Agni was said to have the authority to forgive sins. Ashes were also believed to b e symbolic for the purifying blood of the Vedic god Shiva, which it is said had the power to cleanse sins.
It's not mentioned in the Bible. None of the apostles observed it. Nowhere are Christians commanded to keep it. It was not even officially practiced until nearly 1000 years after Christ's resurrection. Like so many other non-biblical "Christian" customs, it has pagan roots. It's a sad fact that modern Christianity has appropriated so many customs from the practice of the heathens, that one might wonder if it should still be called Christianity. (Craig Portwood )

Maundy Thursday


In the ancient Christian Tradition Maundy Thursday falls on the Thursday preceding Easter Sunday, and is actually only a part of the ancient annual Tenebrae Holy Week ritual. Tenebrć (Latin for darkness or shadows, pronounced ten-eh-bray) is the name of the Christian church service held after nightfall during the last three days of Holy Week, during which the candles in the church are ceremoniously extinguished one by one "to signify the setting of the Sun of Justice", in the words of Pope Benedict XIV. The service is treated as a sort of funeral service or dirge, commemorating the events leading up to the death of Jesus.
In the ancient Christian tradition Tenebrae began at sundown on Holy Wednesday and continued for four days including Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. It ended at Sundown on Holy Saturday. It was held to represent the progressive events leading up to Jesus' death and entombment. In ancient days it included many rituals such as the washing of the feet by local priests, celebrating Jesus' actions toward the disciples, the anointing with oil to celebrate that act performed by Mary Magdalena, the indulging of wine and breaking of bread in remembrance of the last supper, the passion and crucifixion of Good Friday and the entombment of Holy Saturday. The tradition of Tenebrae is very, very ancient and is found in many other religious cultures including very ancient Pagan cultures throughout Europe.
Celtic paganism held a three-day ceremony beginning at sundown on Maundy Thursday, which included celebrating a joyous feast on that evening, offered up to the god Bel (the god of light). During the feast young virgins washed the feet of their future mates and anointed them with oils. Special oil was used for the high priestess and priest since many Celtic tribes practiced a form of Wicca. The holiday continued with the death of Bel on Friday night, his entombment on Saturday and his rising in full glory on Sunday. (ring any bells? See article on the Feasts, and "Why was Passover 2012 special?" for an insight into the three days and three nights of the death, burial and resurrection of Yahshua) In fact until today many Wicca followers claim this is why Sunday is so named. (For their sun god (Bel). In the Christian tradition, Holy Thursday is the Thursday before Easter - the day on which the Last Supper occurred.
In the Christian ritual following the opening, the service is divided into three sections, called "Nocturnos". In the ancient High Church Tenebrae Services these three sections include: Finally, not all Christians celebrate these holidays. According to the Rev. Richard C. Nickels of the Radio Church of God, these are pagan holidays and should not be observed by Christians He says; Palm Sunday -- Sunday before Easter. " . . . Celebrates the triumphant entry of Christ into Jerusalem. Holy Week begins on this day." The problem with this day is that it really occurred on a Thursday. Proof of this is found on pages 160-163 of A Harmony of the Gospels in Modern English (First Edition) by Fred Coulter.
Maundy Thursday -- Thursday before Easter. " . . . is in memory of the Last Supper of Christ with his disciples." The truth is that the 'Last Supper' was on a Tuesday evening. Good Friday -- Friday before Easter. "...commemorates the Crucifixion." The crucifixion really occurred on a Wednesday as shown in other writings. Some of the above information was culled from: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Pagan Holidays, Section Ten of Biblical Holy Days, Compiled by Richard C. Nickels, Bible Myths and Their Parallels in Other Religions, by Professor T. W. Doane, Pagan and Christian Creeds, by Professor Edward Carpenter This Believing World, by Lewis Browne Hebrew Origins, by Professor Theophile James Meek, Understanding The Bible, by Professor Stephen L. Harris, Smith's Bible Dictionary, The Masonic Bible, Orthorized King James Version (Forward by H.L. Haywood)

Conclusion


I have far from covered all the elements of the Spring Festival of Easter, there are whole websites to explore on the subject, so why this article? Bunnies, eggs, Easter gifts and fluffy, yellow chicks in gardening hats all stem from pagan roots. These tropes were incorporated into the celebration of Easter separately from the Christian tradition of honouring the day Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Should we as Christians, believers in the death and resurrection of Yahshua (called Jesus by the many) propagate this gospel of Easter and all its connotations and practises?
One man recently said to me, "When I came to know Jesus, I had been a liar, but now I will not tell my children lies. The Easter Bunny, Easter Eggs and all the other 'trimmings' of this Festival have nothing whatever to do with my Saviour and what happened to Him at Passover. I will tell my children the truth. There was, in His day no Festival observed, called by the name Easter. He died at the Feast of Passover, and that is what I will teach him.
Why indeed, should we need all these trimmings when the facts are real enough. The correct story of the death and amazing resurrection of our Saviour is the most dynamic and exciting story we could ever relate to our children. What does a child make of all this self indulgence? Is it teaching him/her anything about Yahshua? I would argue to the negative. Let us speak the truth in our hearts and relate it to our children. They will trust us when they find out that what we are teaching them is truth.
I will always remember the horror I felt when I discovered that my parents had lied to me about the existence of Santa Claus. It reduced my opinion of them dramatically, and caused me further difficulties when they asked me to trust them in other areas of my life. Being formerly a teacher, I will never forget the passionate outburst in one of my classes when I was teaching 10 year-olds about the Christian Calendar. There was an argument during a discussion session between two pupils. "Miss!" called out the enraged young girl, "He said there was no Easter Bunny! I know there is one Miss, my Mummy and Daddy said so, and I believe it! Miss, tell them he was wrong, there is an Easter Bunny, isn't there, tell him Miss!" She was passionate, she risked her reputation on her beliefs which she totally trusted from her parents' teaching - do YOU think that this is right, to purposely mislead our children regarding Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and other myths concocted by pagan man?

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