Why do we call Easter "Pascha"?

In short, because we always have!

When we were Jews, we called it Peshach or Pesach, Passover. This got translated into Greek as Pascha, and this eventually carried over intact into Latin, Russian, etc. (It persists in the Latin-English adjective paschal, pertaining to Easter.)

Easter is of pagan Germanic origin, whether the name of the season of Spring or of the Spring goddess. English is a Germanic language, so most English-speakers traditionally call Pascha Easter instead of Pascha.

In fact, other Western European languages reflect the Hebrew/Greek/Latin, rather than Germanic, influence: Paques in French, Pascua in Spanish, Pasqua in Italian, Pasg in Welsh (P-Celtic), Caisc in Irish (Q-Celtic, pronouned kawshk; interestingly Passover is called Caisc na nGiudach – Easter of the Jews, so to speak!).

Today in America many cradle Orthodox call it Easter, and many converts call it Pascha!

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  1. Scott McLean

    Hello, It’s very interesting. I know Pascha is the Russian word for Easter. I like your website and this explanation of the word Pascha. Take care.

  2. me

    Thank you, Scott! I’m reminded that Slavs also make a special kind of bread called pascha at this time of year…strangely enough, a custom picked up by “Russian Mennonites” and brought to the U.S. and Canada by them in advance of most immigrant Orthodox.

    (“Russian Mennonites” were those invited to establish farming communities in the Russian Empire, while largely retaining their Germanic heritage. IOW, not ethnically Russian for the most part. Historically they were said to be represented by the U.S./Canadian denomination called the General Conference Mennonite Church, before its recent merger with “the (old) Mennonite Church.” I was familiar with both groups during my Mennonite days…though I never had pascha! I think it contains cheese and/or butter, and I became lactose-intolerant when my previous Quakerism led me to become for a while a vegan, or total vegetarian.)




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