As Christians go about celebrating the torture and recovery of their favorite 1st century Jew, atheists may wonder: what’s the deal with all the eggs and bunnies? Who am I kidding… most atheists understand they are pagan fertility symbols. But how much do you know about Easter?
The word “Easter” traces directly to the Anglo-Saxon name for the month of April: Eostur-monath (monath means month). Eostur likely derives from either Eostre or Ostara (polytheist Europeans either wrote very little or destroyed most of their history during Christianization, so it is pieced together by scholars long after the fact).
Eostre is a Germanic goddess associated with spring, fertility, rebirth, and the morning sunrise. Eostre/Ostara is probably related to the Roman goddess Aurora, the Greek Eos, the Babylonian Ishtar, and the Hindu Ushas. This goddess gets around…
Deities in a pantheon are typically associated with iconography that symbolizes aspects of their power. Bunnies fuck like rabbits, so it’s pretty easy to see the connection to fertility. Eggs are equally overt in their symbolism. The eggs were likely hidden during the persecution of pagans by Christians, and it persisted as a game after syncretism kicked in.
Chocolate is a much later addition to the whole holiday, as it took contact with the Americas before cocoa was introduced to Christians. Jelly beans are a confection heavily influenced by Middle Eastern candies such as Turkish Delight and Jordan Almonds, which pioneered the use of a process called panning to apply a hard candy shell to protect a soft, chewy center.
As with Christmas, there is very little about Easter which is actually Christian.