At the risk of being labeled a grinch, I must say it: The time has come to dispose of the Easter bunny. Even if it means braving the outrage of the chocolate lobby and the egg pickers, we must drive the bunny back into his hole, where he can no longer desecrate the most sacred of Christian celebrations.

I didn’t always feel this way. My earliest recollections of Easter involved scurrying around the house in search of the colored eggs my parents had dutifully hidden. Then, dressed in their Sunday best, they would haul me off to church, explaining that this was one day I had to go.

I didn’t know why.

Thus, in my pagan youth, I fit perfectly with the pagan roots of Easter. Though we Christians today moan about its “secularization,” we’ve got it backward. Easter’s origins can be traced to a host of pre-Christian cultures. Its name is attributed to Eastre (the Teutonic goddess of spring and fertility), Astarte and Ishtar (the Babylonian goddesses), and Oster (the German equivalent).

The Eastre festival was celebrated on the day of the spring equinox, with honors given to rabbits, symbols of fertility, and brightly colored eggs representing the sunlight of spring and new life. (The ancient Druids, Hindus, Japanese, Chinese, and Babylonians also celebrated spring with sacred eggs.)

In the early centuries of the Christian church, the resurrection celebration (based on the timing of Passover) coincided with Eastre’s festival. As pagan peoples were Christianized, their rituals cross-fertilized with the Christian celebration, which in turn took on the pagan name.

This merger of sacred celebration with pagan tradition survived through the centuries. But never has it flourished more than in America today, where it feeds on our contemporary ...

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