Easter, for the non-English

New version of the Gaelic Speakers in Scotland...
New version of the Gaelic Speakers in Scotland map (2001 Census data) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Easter did not come from Ishtar. Those who specialize in word origins (specialize, not blog or write Chick Tracts) debate the origin of this in the English language. Many refer to Bede’s 899 work that seemed to introduce it.

But, what is the holiday actually called? If you want to get religious about it, it is best called Pascha, the Greco-Roman form of the Hebrew Pesach.

Here are names for the holiday from other languages, admittedly mostly European:

Names derived from the Hebrew Pesach (Passover):

  • Latin – Pascha or Festa Paschalia
  • Greek – Paskha
  • Bulgarian – Paskha
  • Danish – Paaske
  • Dutch – Pasen
  • Finnish – Pääsiäinen
  • French – Pâques
  • Indonesian – Paskah
  • Irish – Cáisc
  • Italian – Pasqua
  • Lower Rhine German – Paisken
  • Norwegian – Påske
  • Portuguese – Páscoa
  • Romanian – Pasti
  • Russian – Paskha
  • Scottish Gaelic – Càisg
  • Spanish – Pascua
  • Swedish – Påsk
  • Welsh – Pasg

Names used in other languages:

  • Bulgarian – Velikden (literally: the Grand Day)
  • Polish – Wielkanoc (literally: the Grand Night)
  • Czech – Velikonoce (plural, no singular exists; made from Grand Nights)
  • Slovak – Velká Noc (singular; literally: the Grand Night)
  • Serbian – Uskrs or Vaskrs (literally: resurrection)
  • Japanese – Fukkatsu-sai (lit. resurrection festival)

Whatever the origin of the word “Easter,” the holiday itself is what is more important.

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17 Replies to “Easter, for the non-English”

  1. Regardless of differences in language or geographic location, Spring Equinox is the reason for the season. Much like Winter Solstice, Spring Equinox has been hijacked by a deeply divided and apparently dying religious sect.

    Put another way, unlike Christianity, Spring Equinox and Winter Solstice know no ethnic, regional, or religious boundaries. While calendar dates may vary, seasonal changes occur at the same time everywhere on the globe.

    On the other hand, Christians can’t even agree on when to celebrate Easter! For example, next year (2016) the Western tradition will celebrate Easter in late March, while the Eastern tradition will wait until early May. Now, that’s an example of ecumentalism at work!

    So, Jesus rose exactly when?

    And, no, I’m not holding my breath until that question gets answered.

  2. “Spring Equinox is the reason for the season…” Yes…that’s pretty much what everyone says about this time of year, isn’t it? ‘In the news this Spring Equinox weekend…’ ‘Honey, get the kids and let’s go hunt Spring Equinox eggs…’ ‘Hi dear, have you gone to purchase your Spring Equinox outfit yet?’ ‘Everyone ready to head to Spring Equinox worship services today?’ Yep…pretty clear to most folks that this really isn’t Easter–it’s just a weather pattern…

    Or could it be that somewhere between 1/3 to 1/2 of the world’s population has missed that weather report?? Maybe they’ve bought into another alternative world view–for good reason: “Yet He has not left Himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; He provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” (Acts 14:17) Each year, the same rotation of seasons…as purposed/planned by the kind Creator. “Seasonal changes occur at the same time everywhere on the globe” for a reason–a global apologetic against a purposeless, chanced existence that can only offer a ‘survival of the fittest’ mentality–and that, for only a few years. How unkind; how joyless.

    And while us ‘dying religious hijackers’ often have trouble seeing eye to eye due to pride, prejudice, lovelessness, and host of other human traits (fully confessed), there is one thing we believers do hold pretty much in unity–and it is an exact answer to your question (which I’m sure you’ll be glad to get even though you are not holding your breath): Jesus arose on the third day, that being the first day of the week–‘just as He said’ (Luke 24:1-7).

    My sincere apologies if this is taken as biting sarcasm. It is only intended to be ‘nipping’ sarcasm–but mostly, offered in sadness, that the only real reason one could actually have for hope in this world–that being a Conqueror Who overcame death and offers forgiveness of our sins–is seen as merely a hijacked weather recurrence. Your world view offers my friend who lost his wife last night to cancer no consolation or hope–an empty, false reality, and that from someone who should know more than he offers.

    So, not wanting to offend your wistful–but misguided–sensibility toward the name “Easter,” I wish for you a very (belated) Happy Spring Equinox!

      1. My apologies Joel. I was responding to the first comment (who was substituting the Spring Equinox for Easter), not to your blog. Does that help?

    1. Actually, I celebrate neither Easter nor Spring Equinox. Nevertheless, thank you for the good wishes. May the spirit of Westboro be with you.

        1. Virtually by definition, Easter cannot predate the death of Jesus — whenever it occurred.

          On the other hand, for example, spring celebration of the fertility goddess Cybele and her consort Attis in Rome predates Jesus by at least a couple of centuries. By the way, that’s about the same length of time as has passed since the American Revolution until today!

          Since the Quartodeciman controversy in the 2nd century, there has been a debate among Christians over when to celebrate Easter. Some thought Easter should be linked to the Hebrew tradition. Others disagreed.

          Today, Christianity is so deeply divided that in 2016 OVER A MONTH will separate the celebration of Easter in Western churches from presumably the same celebration in those churches following the Eastern tradition.

          Meanwhile, the coming of spring — fall, summer, or winter for that matter — has been around for a whole lot longer than Cybele, Attis, Jesus, or Christianity. Spring comes around at the same time every year regardless of what people choose to make out of it.

          For some of us, the arrival of spring not a big deal. Life, death, wars, and taxes go on around us as usual. There’s not a whole lot we can do about any of it.

          At the same time, Easter is becoming increasingly secularized in the United States. There’s the return of the “Easter Bunny” and “Easter Eggs” — both pagan symbols associated with Northern European fertility worship. In fact, although the notion of chocolate rabbits is just over a century old, the forerunner of the Easter Bunny was imported to America BEFORE the American Revolution!

          Need I explain why rabbits became symbols of spring fertility?

          Like much of American life, spring celebrations are an amalgam of various traditions for which no particular sect can neither take full credit nor claim total domination.

          1. I was not aware that I brought up Ishtar. Nevertheless, It is reasonable to suspect that fertility rituals associated with spring probably predate Christianity — perhaps by millennia!

            One of the real tragedies of religion in American life has been the commercialization of both Christmas and Easter.

            My idea of an Easter sunrise service is burying the Easter Bunny after having shot him before dawn. My favorite Christmas display is a desperate butt-heavy Santa trying to climb a tree while a dog nips at his posterior.

  3. Let’s see if the following clarifies matters?

    In the Hebrew tradition, the weeklong Pesach or Passover begins on the 15th day of Nisan (sorry for the previous typo). This “month of spring” timing — as specified by the Torah — usually corresponds to April or May on a Gregorian calendar. Like Easter, Passover is timed by a full moon in spring.

    Likewise, Passover is a spring celebration of life over death. Only in the case of the Jews, the cause for joy was being freed from slavery after being bypassed by death in a blood ritual. Passover is merely another rite of spring.

    Hence, to claim that Easter is linked to Passover ignores that Passover is, much like pagan festivities, a spring ritual linked to rebirth or new life — howbeit by other means.

    1. That’s a rather huge leap, I’m afraid, with no real grounding. You cannot simply categorized Passover as “merely another rite of Spring” given the location of the initial rite.

      1. Where doesn’t spring occur for Jews — in Egypt or in Palestine/Israel? After all, “spring” as time to celebrate Passover is specified by the Torah.

        As pointed out in Genesis 8: 22, the Ancient Hebrews recognized “seedtime [aka SPRING] and harvest [aka fall], cold and heat, summer and winter.”

        Having lived in the tropical climes — most probably at your taxpaying grandparents’ expense — I am quite aware that more southerly latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere do not have the same clearly delineated seasonal transitions occurring at more moderate latitudes.

        Although not as extreme, South Floridians experience similar transitions with their 12-months of yard care! Nevertheless, spring arrives in South Florida just like it does everywhere else on the planet — including Egypt and Palestine/Israel.

          1. Celebrations need not be identical or be held at the same time to have a common theme. Whether it is of the spirit or in garden, spring is a time of renewal. Regardless of origin, organized events held around the spring equinox tend to reflect that theme.

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