Although many Christians may not admit it, most of the Easter customs have pagan origins. After Constantine the great adopted Christianity, the fortunes of some hitherto persecuted sect took a dramatic turn. With time, early Christians started to use all manner of strategies to attract pagans to Christianity. One way of doing this was incorporating rituals and cultures that were pagan into Christianity. This way, Christianity was made more attractive to non-Christians. Easter therefore, although it is Christian in origin, has a healthy dose of pagan customs.
March 20 marks the spring Equinox and Easter Sunday is celebrated on the first Sunday after the full moon, after this day. Eastern churches determine Easter differently, although it may sometimes fall on the same day as in western churches.
In many people minds, Easter Sunday is what they refer to as Easter. This day is at the end of Lent period which is counted from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday. Being based on a Lunar calendar, Easter Sunday does not have a fixed date.
Celebration of Easter actually starts at the beginning of Lent and culminates at Easter Sunday. Easter Sunday is special because it is the day Jesus resurrected after being crucified a few days earlier. The last week of Lent is the holy week and it starts with Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday, as you may already know, marks Jesus triumphant entry in Jerusalem while riding on a donkey, and crowds were laying palm branches on his path and shouting Hosanna.
Thursday during Easter week is holy because on this day Jesus shared his last supper with his disciples. On Friday, known as Good Friday, Jesus was crucified. Easter marks the day he rose, as the gospels says.
The word Easter is deeply steeped on Norse and Teutonic mythology. It is derived from Ostra, which is Scandinavian, or Ostern, Teutonic for goddess of spring and fertility. German pagans celebrated the festival of their god of fertility during vernal equinox.
For Christians, it is a period of reflection and prayer. While some are subdued by its significance, others merry and celebrate more or less like it was celebrated by northern Europeans before they became Christians.
Jews celebrate around this time as it coincides which their Passover, when they mark their miraculous deliverance from Egypt. For that reason, Easter is sometimes referred to as Pascha.
Here are some Easter traditions that seems to have pagan origins:
The significance of the original practices has however been mostly lost and they were given Christian meaning.