Why is Easter called “Easter” in English, and what do rabbits have to do with it?

There Easter it is one of the main holidays of Christianity, it celebrates the resurrection of Christ and for believers it marks a time of renewal and hope. However, the English term Easterused to call this celebration in Anglo-Saxon countries, finds no direct correspondence in the Scriptures or in the neo-Latin languages ​​and instead derives from ancient pagan traditions preceding Christianity. In particular it would be linked to the goddess of spring Ēostreemblem of rebirth and fertility and associated with animals such as advise and the hare. Also due to this connection, today the rabbit would be one of the symbols of Easter.

This curious connection between a Christian holiday and its pagan roots allows us to observe how cultures influence and transform each other over time to give life to something new.

The Jewish origin of the Italian word Easter

The Italian word “Easter“, as well as the French Paques or Spanish Easterfind their origin in Jewish culture: the Jewish Passover is in fact called Pesach or Pesah and, according to some interpretations, it would mean “passage, liberation”, indicating the moment of passage of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt to freedom.

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The etymology of the English word Easter

The historical path of the word is completely different.”Easter”, which originates from the name of one Anglo-Saxon deity, Ēostreassociated with spring, rebirth and fertility. The holidays in honor of Ēostre were celebrated during the month of Ēosturmōnaþwhich roughly corresponds to current April.

Easterclose to German Oster, it derives, according to many philologists, from proto-Germanic austronwhat does it mean “Sunrise”. And, not surprisingly, it is precisely dawn and spring that are traditionally connected with Easter.

This connection was first suggested by the English monk and historian Bede the Venerable in his book De temporum ratione (“On the Measurement of Time”), written in the early 8th century, stating that the month of Ēosturmōnaþ (April) was named after Ēostre, thus celebrating the rebirth of the earth after winter and the increase of daylight.

The origins of the Easter bunny

The goddess Ēostre would also be one of the reasons for the association between Easter and animals like the hare and the rabbit. It happened, in fact, that the goddess Ēostre was depicted as one hare or a rabbit or was associated with such animals, given their fertility and prolificacy. The subsequent tradition of the Easter Bunnies, Easter bunnies of chocolate that are given to children.

The meeting of two cultures: pagan and Christian

With the advent of Christianity in the Anglo-Saxon lands, the traditions related to Ēostre gradually merged with the celebration of the resurrection of Christ. This process of religious syncretism led to the fusion of symbols and rites, creating a cultural amalgam which definitely influenced the celebration of Easter in these areas.

The resurrection of Christ, symbol of new life and hope, was thus compared to the pagan spring festivals, leading to the creation of the “Easter” that we know today, a festival which, while maintaining the name of an ancient pagan divinity, celebrates a central event of the Christian faith, creating a bridge between two worlds and two visions of life and the divine.

This fusion is an emblematic example of how cultures tend to integrate and reinterpret pre-existing holidays and traditions within their own belief systems. The result is a rich historical-cultural fabric in which it is possible to read the traces of human actions through the centuries.

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