Easter Origins

This is a brief bonus post. Next week, I will focus on Saint Boniface and his mission to Germany. But today while I am still thinking about the Anglo-Saxons I want to briefly talk about Easter. One of the things that people see as either a strength or flaw of Pope Gregory I and Augustine of Canterbury was their ability to allow syncretism. What do I mean by “syncretism?” As the Roman Church was evangelizing to the Anglo-Saxons, rather than completely destroying their pagan shrines, relics, and festivals, they would purify them and reclaim them for the Church. The truth is, there is something beautiful about the idea of restoring something to Christ, but this wasn’t always done well. Think of how the Apostle Paul found good with “the unknown god shrine” in Athens (Acts 17).

However, Easter is a weird one in the English-speaking world. During the Roman Church’s celebration of the Paschal month (Passover & the Resurrection) fell the pagan Anglo-Saxon celebration of the goddess Eostre. We get the word “Easter” from Eostre’s name. While we do celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, we also have a lot of pagan ideas like egg-exchanges, bunnies, and hot-cross buns.

I personally don’t have much commentary on the subject, but I just thought it was worth mentioning that we get “Easter” from the syncretism of the Christian Paschal month and the Eostre-worship festivals of the Anglo-Saxons. This is one of the results of the Gregorian Mission to England. I’m curious to hear your thoughts—was this syncretism a good thing or a bad thing? Was it the work of a good missionary or a tactful politician? Should the Church celebrate Easter?

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