Early Christian missionaries, spreading out among the Teutonic tribes northward of Rome and Italy, found many pagan religious observances.
Whenever possible, the missionaries did not interfere too strongly with the old customs, but quietly transformed them into ceremonies harmonizing with Christian doctrine.
Thus they found that all the Teutonic tribes did homage about the first of April each year to the goddess of spring. Her name among some of the tribes was Ostara; among the Angles or Saxons she was known as Eastre.
The day was one of great rejoicing; old and young celebrated with dancing, feasting, and games. Bonfires were lighted. Children gathered eggs, which they colored, and searched for newly born hares, both of which were ancient offerings to the goddess of spring.
Christian missionaries were quick to see that the occurrence of this festival corresponded with the time of the observance of the Paschal feast, and that its occasion could be readily altered into one of rejoicing over the rebirth of Christ. The old customs remained unchanged.
Thus, in most of the Teutonic countries, it happens that the name of this long forgotten pagan goddess, Oster in Germany, Easter among English-speaking people, is still given to the day that commemorates the Resurrection of Christ.