Sisters of St. Joseph of CarondeletOctober 20, 2019

Earth Concerns News

Easter Originally Observed at Time of Spring Equinox by Janet Derby, CSJ Associate

Easter (The name originated from the Saxon dawn goddess, Eostre.) was originally observed by pagans as a celebration of birth and fertility at the time of the Vernal or Spring Equinox (meaning equal night or darkness). The resurrection of the Earth became entwined within the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The egg, a symbol of fertility, became a symbol of new life in the Resurrected Jesus. Rabbits became symbols of purity and new life. Hence, the popularity of rabbits and eggs!

The Spring Equinox is one of two days during the year when the hours of daylight and night or darkness are of equal length. The Vernal Equinox was a sunrise celebration in ancient times to signify new beginnings, the re-awakening of nature from it winter sleep and the moment in time when the light becomes greater than the darkness, when the sun is positioned above the equator creating a balance between daylight and darkness. Many Christian churches today celebrate Easter at sunrise.

This time of year was later used by Christians to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ on the same day as the Jews observed Passover. Later, Emperor Constantine (325 A.D.) decreed that Easter should be celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Vernal or Spring Equinox. This system of calculating the date for Easter Sunday has been used ever since.

Long before the first Easter, people greeted spring with joyful celebrations. During the long winter nights, they were afraid that the sun would just slip away and were very much relieved when the hours of daylight increased. The sun became a symbol of new life, a kind of resurrection. As life renewed itself with the emergence of new crops and new baby animals, people became hopeful and were once again happy. New life can also begin to sprout in one=s soul today! [Recall that on the day of Christ=s Resurrection, two disciples encountered a man on the road to Emmaus and spoke to him about the hopes they had in Jesus Christ. The stranger did not partake in what was a sad reminiscence for the two disciples. It wasn=t until the stranger joined them for super and blessed bread at the table that the two disciples recognized HIM as Jesus Christ present! Jesus promised His people that He would be with them always. In this Year of the Eucharist, let us not forget that Jesus is forever present with us in the flesh each time we hear the words, ADo this in memory of me.@ It is here and now that He abides with us, promising to make all things new.]

At the time of the Vernal/Spring Equinox, ancient peoples recognized a new emerging energy within all species of Creation and they celebrated with song and dance. One can feel energy building as the days become warmer with promise! [The two disciples shook off their sluggishness and rushed back to their homes, filled with joy and certainty! They were able to live in the present with an energy that only comes from HIS Presence!]

The ancient peoples also built huge bonfires to honor the sun and awaken the Earth. The Christian Church banned these ancient spring fire rites until 725 A.D. when St. Patrick observed the early Irish Celts and Scandinavians performing them. He knew that these peoples did not want to give up such customs. So, he wisely allowed bonfires outside of church buildings on Easter Eve. Europeans eventually adopted this practice and that is how the fire came to be blessed annually on Easter as part of the Christian observance. [ARound me falls the night; Savior, be my light: Through the hours in darkness shrouded, let me see your face unclouded; let your glory shine, in this heart of mine! Jesus, Lead the Way.@]

It is interesting to note that Germanic peoples believed in the curative properties of water drawn early on Easter Morning. Local pagan customs were changed to harmonize with existing Christian Doctrine as often as possible. This was practical in that it prevented converts from being persecuted by pagan traditionalists.


(February 2005)