Easter is well-documented to have been influenced by the pre-Christian religions of Europe and the Middle East, but what about Good Friday? Learn about what sort of influence ancient civilizations and their religions had on the day Christians commemorate the crucifixion of Christ here.
It’s important to note that the Easter season is celebrated in the spring, a particularly important time for early humans because of the spring equinox. In 2018, the spring equinox occurred at 12:15 p.m. EDT on March 20 in the northern hemisphere. During this time, the sun moved directly over the earth’s equator and signaled the first day of the astronomical spring, versus the meteorological spring. These are the two ways to measure the seasons: the astronomical way reflects natural phenomena to mark time, while the meteorological way is based on the annual temperature cycle as well as our 12-month calendar.
The meteorological spring begins on March 1, and the meteorological spring always occurs during the vernal equinox, which occurs on March 19, 20, or 21 every year, writes DateAndTime.com. The spring equinox is one of the four seasonal astronomical events that affect the earth. The others include the summer solstice, the autumnal equinox, and the winter solstice.
An equinox is very different than a solstice. “Equinox” is derived from Latin and means “equal night.” “Solstice” is also derived from Latin and means “sun stopped,” reflecting how the sun reaches its highest position in the sky.
Easter and April Fools’ Day are both ancient holidays steeped in pagan customs. April Fools’ Day derives from the ancient Roman religious festival Hilaria, which was celebrated on the spring equinox. During Hilaria, Romans honored Cybele, an Anatolian mother goddess mother adopted into the Roman pantheon of gods via Greece. Cybele also had a son/lover named Attis, who committed suicide by castrating himself before a forced marriage to someone else. To honor Attis’ life, Cybele made it so his corpse would never decay. Every spring, Attis would be “reborn” with the spring vegetation. To celebrate Attis, “participants would dress in disguise at the event at the end of March,” writes The Telegraph.
Hilaria is where we derive the word “hilarious.”
Similar themes can be seen in the Bible with Jesus Christ and the story of his resurrection. A lot of other ancient gods and goddesses also have a similar springtime resurrection story, including Baal, Melqart, Adonis, Tammuz, Dionysus, Ishtar, Persephone, and Bari. Even more amazingly, there have been at least sixteen “crucified saviors” in the history of mankind, according to The World’s Sixteen Crucified Saviors: Or Christianity Before Christ.
The closest “crucified god” to Jesus is Quirinus, an early god of the Roman state. Quirinus is believed to have been crucified in 506 B.C. and, according to legend, was also born of a virgin.