Meaning of Easter and Its Origin
For all of us nowadays, Easter is about chocolate eggs, feasting with family and friends and relaxing over a long weekend. But the meaning of Easter and its word origins are over a millenium old.
It all started back in the 7th century AD with an English monk named Bede. He was quoted in his scriptures noting Ēosturmōnaþ, Old English for Month of Ēostre. That, translated in Bede’s time as Paschal month and was also an English month.
Easter, Ēostre and Ēastrun
In modern English, the term Easter, a cognate with modern German Ostern, developed from an Old English word that appears in the form Ēastrun, -on, or -an; but also as Ēastru, -o; and Ēastre or Ēostre. This month corresponds with April for which Bede was referred to it as “was once called after a goddess of theirs named Ēostre, in whose honour feasts were celebrated in that month”.
“The Sunday following the full Moon which falls on or after the equinox will give the lawful Easter.” — Bede
Originally, the word denoted the Jewish festival of Passover, commemorating the story of the Exodus. In the 50s of the 1st century (150 – 160 AD), Paul, writing from Ephesus to the Christians in Corinth, applied the term to Christ, and it is unlikely that the Ephesian and Corinthian Christians were the first to hear Exodus 12 interpreted as speaking about the death of Jesus, not just about the Jewish Passover ritual! That’s when modern Christianity talks about the resurrection of Christ. And hence the fasting leading up until Easter time.
In most of the non-English speaking world, this feast is known by names derived from the Greek and Latin word, Πάσχα and Pashca, respectively. Pascha is derived from Aramaic: פסחא, a cognate to the Hebrew word, פֶּסַח (Pesach).
Now, where’s that chocolate egg of mine?