Today, Easter are – for most of the people – connected to Christianity and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But the roots of this holiday lay nowhere else than in paganism.
Ostara, sometimes called Éostre, Éastre or Ôstara (can you see the similarity with the word Easter?), is an old Nordic goddess of fertility, femininity and dawn. Celebration of Ostara varied each year, but unlike modern Christian’s Easter, the date was usually set between 9th and 15th of April (today the date is often incorrectly connected to the Spring Equinox on 20th of March, but this is more of a Celtic tradition). When the days are slowly getting longer and the winter is coming to its end, people needed to make sure that the upcoming seasons will be plentiful, wealthy and satisfying.
From this time farmers also started to work on their fields and sow seeds again, so it’s no surprise they were honoring gods with sacrifices and feasts to secure their bounty. Freya, goddess of love, fertility and harvest, was also very popular goddess to turn on. Everything is fresh. New. The world is reborn. But very famous Easter egg and hares also come from the goddess Ostara. She often held those two symbols as her attributes. How is hare connected to fertility is pretty obvious, and egg might be another metaphorical representation of the creation of the Universe.
Of course, as it was indicated, celebration of Ostara/Easter or whatever you want to call it was not held only by Norse pagans. It just dragged my biggest attention, because, obviously, I have a thing for vikings and for old Germanic mythology. Paganism and ancient way of living were always deeply fascinating me, and gods know I came across many tendencies – until I found my true self in the glory of All-Father Odin. But that’s another story.
It’s no secret today that lots of holidays, which are widely viewed as Christian, were applied to old pagan celebrations. During the Christianization, many pagans refused to give up their old habits and traditions. Therefore they had to cover old holidays with new meaning; that way everyone was happy and it was easier for Christianity to take over. During the centuries the true and original meaning was lost, but the amount of books about (neo)paganism and raising numbers of people trying to stick to the old ways are showing that heathens are not dead at all. They are still alive in hearts and minds of many people, flowing in their veins with the blood of their ancestors and slowly spreading around the world.