Having grown up in a Christian household, Easter was a very spiritual holiday for me. We started by going to church where, after 40 days of being solemn and quiet, we could loudly sing praises that Christ had risen indeed. And there was much laughter and a bounty of happiness, and everyone was dressed like flowers. The cross at the front of the church had holes in it, and the children would go forth and fill the holes with small bouquets of flowers. There were no Easter bunnies, but there were baskets and eggs and ham and a fete that continued all the day long.
I no longer consider myself a Christian. Maybe it's because I was exposed to too many different religions as an adult, maybe it was the romantic side of me (and yes I believe religion is right up there with romance) gave into the logical side of me. Or maybe it was that so many people on this earth use God to punish others, to justify their own hatred and bigotry. Whatever the reason, my beliefs no longer exist so I am left in the dark abyss of my doubt and Easter Sunday is a day like any other. But being surrounded by Passover and Easter in the outer areas of my life, I decided to look up the origins of these beliefs. And I read some pretty fascinating things.
Mainly that Christians were not the first to celebrate "Easter". It began as a pagan holiday. Ishtar (pronounced "Easter") was a day that commemorated the resurrection of a god called Tammuz, who is believed to have been the begotten son of the moon-goddess and the sun-god.
In ancient times there was Nimrod, who was the grandson of Noah's son Ham. Ham's son was named Cush and he married a woman who was called Semiramis. They begat Nimrod. When Cush died, Nimrod married his mother and became a powerful King. The Bible tells of this man, Nimrod, in Genesis 10:8-10 as follows:
"And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be a mighty one in the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord: wherefore it is said, even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord. And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad,and Calneh, in the land of Shinar."
Nimrod became a god-man to the people and Semiramis became the Queen of ancient Babylon. Nimrod was eventually killed by an enemy and his body was cut into pieces and scattered around his kingdom. Semiramis had all the parts gathered except for his reproductive organs which could not be found. Because he was not "whole" he could not be resurrected, instead Semiramis told the people of Babylon that Nimrod had ascended to the sun and was now to be called "Baal", the sun god. Queen Semiramis also proclaimed that Baal would be present on earth in the form of a flame, whether candle or lamp, when used in worship.
It was believed that Semiramis was immaculately conceived of the moon goddess that went through 28 day cycles and ovulated when full; that Semiramis came down from the moon in a giant egg that landed in the Euphrates River. This happened at the time of the first full moon after the spring equinox.
Semiramis later became pregnant from the rays of the sun-god Baal. The boy was known as Tammuz who became a hunter like his father. He would hunt rabbits which became sacred. Unfortunately he was killed by a wild boar and the Queen told people that he had ascended to his father. She proclaimed a 40 day period of sorrow each year prior to the anniversary of Tammuz's death. No meat could be eaten at this time. Worshipers were asked to meditate upon the sacred mysteries of Baal and Tammuz.
Every year, on the first Sunday after the full moon after the spring equinox, a celebration was made and this was to be called Ishtar Sunday. It was celebrated with rabbits and eggs and because Tammuz was killed by a wild boar, a boar (or pig) would be eaten.
And so Ishtar, or Easter as we know it, began. Makes you question most religions and where their traditions were born....now to do a little reading on Passover. Happy Easter Everyone!