According to the historian Bede, the name "Easter" comes from Eostre, an Anglo-Saxon fertility goddess. Her main holiday happened near the vernal equinox, so the Catholic church most likely timed its celebration of Christ's resurrection to coincide with that pagan celebration.Continue Reading
Though in English, Easter is named after a pagan god, it is a very Christian holiday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which happened shortly after Jewish Passover. In other languages, it is called something closer to the Hebrew "Pesach," or Passover. For example, in Dutch, Easter is "Pasen."
Not only the name, but the timing of Easter seems to be based on the vernal equinox. Easter is accounted to be the first Sunday after the first new moon after March 21, the spring equinox.
Some Easter traditions are also derived from pagan sources. The Easter bunny came with the Pennsylvania Dutch from Germany, where it laid red eggs in nests children built in gardens and barns. Decorated eggs come from a tradition celebrating the end of Lent, when it was forbidden to eat eggs. Alternate explanations include the undocumented theories that both rabbit and egg are ancient fertility symbols and naturally associated with spring and renewal, or that the egg is a symbol of the life arising from Christ's tomb.Learn more about Holidays