I really feel like I've talked more about Christianity and Judaism this last week than I have about paganism, which is interesting, because it's all been taking place in pagan communities, heh...
Alright, so with the Easter season coming to a close, I thought I'd write up a little post to shed some light on something that has a lot of people worked up... the date of Easter.
Apparently since Easter moves each year, that means Easter is totally pagan, and/or Christianity is a bunch of made up BS, or... whatever other insulting thing people jump to. Which is quite funny to me, because if you wanted to question the date of a Christian holiday and get on the "they stole it from pagans!" train, Christmas really would have been the way to go. See, the thing is, Easter has a really specific date, and it has nothing to do with paganism, and everything to do with Judaism.
Easter is, in short, the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox. Okay, hold on now, that sounds pretty pagan, right? Well, not really. See, this has to do with the Jewish calendar, which is a lunisolar calendar (meaning lunar and solar), like pretty much a boat load of ancient calendars were. Easter is calculated off the date of Passover, because, well, that's when Jesus died. We know this, because the Bible is pretty clear on that.
In other words, Easter is closely linked to Passover, and both holidays appear to move about the "standard" calendar we use because they are based off the Jewish calendar.
But doesn't this mean the day Jesus died moves around? Well, no, not really. The best way I've seen to explain this was on a Jewish website. A man was sitting in a synagogue, and overheard someone asking when Hanukkah was this year, and he was given an answer of "the same as always, the 25th of Kislev." In other words, on the Jewish calendar Hanukkah does NOT move, it is always the same day! However, since the Jewish calendar is lunisolar, the dates do not match up with the Gregorian calendar most of us use in day to day living. So, Hanukkah is always the 25th of Kislev - but when we try to translate that to the Gregorian calendar that means it could be the 24th of December, or the 6th of December, or the 10th of December (and so on), because these two calendars are calculated in different ways.
(Reconstructionst Greek pagans also use a lunisolar calendar, so explaining why those festivals move, and how to calculate them, same sort of idea, same sort of confusion for some folks.)
Woah now, but wait, Easter was the 27th of March, and Passover isn't until the end of April this year! Yeah, okay, bear with me... The thing is, a Rabbi sort of solidified the Jewish calendar several hundred years back, made it universal, for lack of a better way to put it. Christians basically decided to ignore this and continue on with their own calculations, since that's what they'd been doing, and this is why some years Passover comes after Easter, and not before. This isn't super common though, happens, oh, every few years? Most years both celebrations still line up.
So hopefully all that makes sense. I have explained this dozens of times this weekend, and a lot of folks still seem confused by it, and yeah, I guess it can be confusing if you're not used to working with calendars other than the Gregorian one. Or I'm just not doing a great job explaining it, since it is a bit weird.
But yeah, long post short... The date of Easter isn't stolen from pagans, it's based on the Jewish calendar, which is different from the Gregorian calendar.