Social media is the ultimate place for clashing opinions. This past weekend I saw a battle on Facebook over a post about the pagan roots of Easter. The post pointed out that Easter coincides with pagan fertility celebrations and that symbols like eggs and rabbits are closer to these fertility roots more than Jesus’ resurrection. This upset a Christian Facebooker and back-and-forth comments ensued. This negativity does not belong in any celebration, be it Christian or Pagan. This should be an opportunity for making connections and learning about the history of one’s respective religion.
The pagan roots of Christian holidays like Christmas and Easter is a fact. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. However, this fact is often used by instigators in an attempt to undermine the legitimacy of Christian holidays. That somehow the pagan roots would make Christian holidays less worth celebrating; and further make the Christian religion less worth practicing. This must be effective to some degree considering the fiery reactions of Christians. Somehow they are threatened by the idea of pagan roots. This is foolish on both the parts of the instigators and the defensive Christians. The pagan roots of Christian holidays illustrate the depth, history, and complexity of Christianity; not its illegitimacy and should not be used as such. If Christians understood and embraced this, they would learn more about their religion and remove power from instigators.
One need not look far for pagan elements in Christianity. The four elements found in contemporary Pagan and animistic traditions around the world (earth, air, water and fire) took center stage at the Easter Vigil I attended at an Episcopal church. The holy paschal fire, prayers inviting the Holy Spirit to stir in the air amongst us, holy water for the renewal of baptismal vows, and the evergreen branch used to sprinkle the congregation. These elements are highly visible in many organized and organic faith traditions. But, in Christianity they gain new significance and meaning. The pagan roots are not lost, but holidays and symbols come to stand on their own. Making them fully legitimate in a purely Christian light.
Note: Here ‘pagan’ is used when discussing ancient, pre-Christian, and indigenous traditions. ‘Pagan’ is used when discussing contemporary or Neo-Pagan traditions.