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People tell a lot of stories about the origins of Easter – is it a pagan holiday? A Christian holiday? How is it related to Passover? Here we try to sort that all out. It’s complicated, but you can start with our account of what Lent is (the days leading up to Easter). This is the time when there’s very little to eat – it’s been a long time since the fall harvest and nothing is growing yet for the spring.

Go on from there to our history of Easter itself: the holiday goes back at least as far as the Bronze Age Babylonian New Year, celebrating the first ripe barley of the spring when there was again something good to eat – and also eggs, and baby rabbits, and lambs. The word “Easter”, though, probably comes from a German name for the month, from the word “East”, because the sun was rising earlier.

The history of Easter Eggs goes back even further than the history of Easter – even in Paleolithic times, in the Early Stone Age, people in Africa were dyeing ostrich eggs and patterning them. The celebration of spring (and other things) with decorated eggs that signified rebirth spread all across Africa, Europe, and Asia, reaching as far as China, and including not only Christianity but also Islam and Buddhism.

But if you are looking for the Christian story of Jesus’s rebirth, you’ll find that here, with early medieval images illustrating it:

Happy Easter to all! I’m a big fan of this holiday of rebirth and spring and joyfulness, and I hope it will be a joyful one for you, too!