The other day I posted a link on my Facebook to a news story about a New Zealand university Christian group who’d come up with an interesting ‘marketing’ tactic this Easter. Throw eggs at Christians!
The catch? You have to let them share the gospel with you.
I posted this through, and a friend commented to ask what coloured eggs had to do with Easter. I replied nothing, but nor did they have anything to do with the story.
But it got me wondering about something. In my past life, I used to be quite contentious about Easter, Christmas and some other minor Christian calendar events.
Why? Because of their history.
For me, at a stage in my life following paganism as a spiritual belief, there was something offensive to me about these Christians making a festival all about their God and their Jesus when that wasn’t what it was all about in the first place. The perspective was one of these Christians barging into countries who didn’t want them and taking over the place, turning the holidays into Christian holidays, and manipulating the people into giving up their own, older religious beliefs for this new one.
A little history lesson: Easter, like Christianity, does potentially have some origins based in the ancient pagan religions. There is some evidence of a Germanic goddess, Eostre (or Ostara) as being a goddess over spring in ancient times, however the first mention of her does state that the festival was already extinct, and there are some scholars today who argue that she may have been invented by Bede (the scholar who first wrote about her).
I’m not saying one way or the other, personally, because to me it doesn’t matter – and I’ll get to that.
What I want to pause and think about, really, is the whole thing about Christianisation of pagan festivals. As I stated above, once upon a time I took this as an offense, as a sort of espionage tactic by the Christians to make it easier to impose their religion on the people of another one.
I think, while it might be possible, it’s certainly less feasible than the other angle.
See, even whilst not walking with God, I still celebrated Easter and Christmas. I went looking for reasons to justify continuing to celebrate them given a lack of belief in Christianity, but I still celebrated them all the same.
Now imagine, say, 1500 years ago, whole villages and towns were coming to Christ. You become Christian in January, and suddenly April rolls around – here’s the Spring festival that you’ve been celebrating your whole life, but suddenly the gods you were worshiping aren’t the same anymore. What do you do?
You party anyway, and you celebrate with God.
If you travel around the world and stop in at Christian meetings throughout the nations, you’ll see differences in the way they worship depending on culture. The advantage of Christianity, and that we celebrate a personal relationship with God, is that there aren’t specific rituals that say you must worship in X manner. The way different cultures worship is an example of the freedom that we have in Christ to worship God and to have our relationship with Him in a manner that fits with us.
So when it comes to Easter, Christmas or anything else, then regardless of their origins, we can celebrate also. It’s not about ‘stealing’ the celebrations from the pagans; I genuinely don’t think that’s what happened. I would suggest that it was simply a cultural adaptation – they had a party last year, the year before, and every year before that too, so why not have a party this year with God?
And as for Easter Eggs?
I was surprised, actually, because this one does actually seem to have stemmed from a Christian tradition. Observation of Lent (I’m not even going there – I’ll eat steak when I like, thank you) had people not eating red meat or dairy, and eggs were included in this. So before refrigerators, they had all these chickens laying eggs, but nothing to do with them.
How rude of the chickens not to observe Lent, I say.
But hey, if you have a whole heap of eggs that you can’t eat, why not do something with them? Paint them up, colour them in and give them to one another. Still better than just throwing them away, right?