No days such honored days as these! While yet
Fair Aphrodite reigned, men seeking wide
For some fair thing which should forever bide
On earth, her beauteous memory to set
In fitting frame that no age could forget,
Her name in lovely April’s name did hide,
And leave it there, eternally allied
To all the fairest flowers Spring did beget. - Helen Hunt Jackson
Like so many Christian holidays, Easter is a pagan festival re-dedicated to Christian purposes. But as I explained in last year’s column for the holiday, Easter is unusual in that it has retained both the name (in English at least) and most of the symbolism of its pagan antecedents, right down to the theme of rebirth. In other European languages the holiday instead shares a name with Passover; this is because according to the Gospels Jesus was crucified the day before Passover and rose from the dead on the day after, so the Church calculated Easter by the same means used by Jews to calculate their holiday. And since the Jewish calendar is lunar, that means Easter moves around and can occur any time from March 22nd to April 25th.
Some pagan readers have wondered why I celebrate some of the sabbats on nearby Christian or American secular holidays (for example, Yule on Christmas and Litha on Independence Day). The reason is a purely pragmatic one; since my husband travels for his job and his employers have no compunction against getting him home barely in time for holidays, celebrating on the popular days ensures he can be here (he often misses celebrations which have no government-approved holiday in close proximity, such as Mabon). So our feast to greet spring is today, and that means I’m taking the day off from slaving at my blog to slave instead in the kitchen. C’est la vie. To all who celebrate today – whether for religious reasons, social reasons or just as an excuse to eat yummy boiled eggs and/or chocolate – I wish you a Happy Easter!