There is a growing number of Christians who think that the celebration of “Easter” is rooted in pagan traditions. One of the basic assumptions is that the name “Easter” is a Christian appropriation of “Ishtar,” a Babylonian fertility goddess. Even though the words may sound similar, they probably have no etymological connection. The English word “Easter” likely comes from the Proto-Germanic “austron,” which means “sunrise” – arguably a fitting name for a celebration that commemorates Jesus’ rising from the dead.
Outside of the English-speaking world, “Easter” is often known by its proper name “Pascha.” This means that the majority of Christians in the world celebrate “Pascha” — an Aramaic synonym of the Hebrew Pesach, which means “Passover,” rather than “Easter.”
During this feast, traditional Christians celebrate the work of Christ’s redemption, believing that only in His resurrection is God’s forgiveness truly sealed. Because of Jesus’ resurrection, the judgment of God passes over believers just as the angel of death passed over the Israelite homes marked by the blood of the lamb during their captivity in Egypt.
However, an average, English-speaking Christian often fails to see the direct connection between “Easter/Pascha” and “Passover/Pesach.” Many of the rituals and customs appear to be very different (some times purposely so). Also, in order to ensure that no one connected (and therefore confused) supposedly unconnected holidays, it was decided at the Council of Nicea (325 CE) that the feast of Easter/Pascha (among others) would be celebrated on a different date – not on the 14th of Nisan according to the Jewish authorities but on the 14th of Nissan as determined by Christians ecclesiastical leaders.
Is Easter/Pascha a Pagan holiday? Not quite. It is fundamentally an Israelite, biblical holiday, albeit one that has been robbed of its true Jewish character and taken out of its original Israelite setting.