Most of our holidays have "pagan
origins." This was quite intentional as the leaders of the Church at various
times wanted to transform pre-Christian holidays to a Christian purpose. Rather
than trying to outlaw a "pagan" festival, why not simply change the
meaning of the celebration? Seems sensible to me.
Easter is, of
course, the celebration of Christ's resurrection. As is the case with most Christian
holidays, it commemorates an event in the life of Christ -- this is its biblical
Why are Easter and Christmas for that matter not mentioned
in the Bible?
Simply because when the New Testament books were written
these holidays were in a formative stage, just as was Christian worship and prayer
Why are customs that seem to have little to do with
the central idea of Easter still so widely practiced, such as decorating Easter
eggs, or consuming tons of chocolate candy? Simply because these are popular activities
that people would continue to engage in even if the church made a major effort
to "purify" the holiday. (Also, many businesses thrive through the manufacture
and sale of holiday related products.)
When you think about it, almost
everything we do in church or as part of our Christian life has "pagan"
origins. Prayer, public worship, the reading of scripture, the building of churches,
the election of church officers, taking up an offering, the appointing or ordination
of clergy, preaching, missionary activity among the poor. You name it; it has
pagan roots. If we were to abandon everything that has pagan roots, there would
be nothing left.
Besides, I think it is a virtue to recognize the
truth in traditions other than our own ... and borrow freely from them. Let more
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The Rev. Charles P. Henderson is a Presbyterian minister and
Executive Director of CrossCurrents.
He is the author of God and Science (John Knox Press, 1986).
A revised and expanded version of the book is appearing here. God and Science (Hypertext Edition,
He is also editor of a new book, featuring articles by world class scientists and theologians, and illustrating the leading views on the relationship between science and religion: Faith, Science and the Future (CrossCurrents Press, 2007).
Charles also tracks the boundry between the virtual and the real at his blog: Next World Design, focusing on the mediation of art, science and spirituality in the metaverse.