Pascha – Easter – Passover
Easter is coming! This year it is on Sunday April 20, 2014. Interestingly, this year Catholic, Orthodox, and other people are going to celebrate Easter on the same day. This does not happen each year because of different ways in which the day for the celebration of this holiday is selected. But instead of focusing on how the day is selected, let us look at the term itself.
Have you ever wondered, why Easter is called “Easter” in English? In order to find out, I checked two etymological dictionaries. Here is what I have found:
1) “ Old English ēastre; of Germanic origin and related to German Ostern and east; perhaps from Ēastre, the name of a goddess associated with spring” (OD, 2014);
2) “Old English Easterdæg, from Eastre (Northumbrian Eostre), from Proto-Germanic *Austron, a goddess of fertility and spring, probably originally of sunrise whose feast was celebrated at the spring equinox, from *austra–, from PIE *aus– “to shine” (especially of the dawn)” (OED, 2014).
Unlike English, many other Indo-European languages use a variant of the word “Paskha” to name this holiday: e.g. Lat. Pascha, Gr. Πάσχα [‘pasha], Ukr. Пасха [‘pasha]). This word is derived from the Heb. פֶּסַח [‘pesah] meaning “passover”, that is passing from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land. In Christianity, Pascha is the holiday which is celebrated in commemoration of Jesus Christ resurrection and hope that those who follow Him in good deeds, faith, and love to God and the neighbour will also arise for eternal life in Heaven. Pascha in Christianity, thus, can be seen as passing from temporary life to life eternal and therefore, the word “Pascha” is more appropriate in relation to the Feast.
Online Etymology Dictionary (OED) (2014). Retrieved April 18, 2014, from http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=easter&searchmode=none
Oxford Dictionaries (OD) (2014). Retrieved April 18, 2014, from http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/Easter?q=Easter