While the precise etymology is unknown, scholars accepting the derivation proposed by the 8th-century English scholar St. Bede, believe it probably comes from Eastre, the Anglo-Saxon name of a Teutonic goddess of spring and fertility, to whom was dedicated a month corresponding to April. Her festival was celebrated on the day of the vernal equinox. Traditions associated with the festival survive in the Easter rabbit, a symbol of fertility, and in colored Easter eggs, originally painted with bright colors to represent the sunlight of spring, and now used in Easter-egg rolling contests or given as gifts.
Early Christians began celebrating the Resurrection at the time of the Passover, but to distinguish themselves from their Jewish roots, they began their celebration a week later. As the years continued, the German Teutonic tradition’s dependence on the lunar calendar served to “date” when Resurrection Sunday should be celebrated. Incidentally, some Christians do still celebrate the Resurrection on the Biblical calendar. The Greek Orthodox Church celebrates the Resurrection based on the annually legitimate time to celebrate—Passover. It’s the “first day of the week” after the last day of Passover. Interesting about that first “first day of the week….”
My church, Carrollwood Baptist Church, will celebrate the Resurrection on April 17, not “Easter.” We take the first and second commandments of the Decalogue seriously; i.e., a “Teutonic goddess of fertility” has no place in a Yahweh-fearing church. Of course, most people don’t think they’re worshiping “Eastre” when celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus as the Christ. Our linguistics, nonetheless, need some edification. God is smart—He’s even taken a linguistic lie and associated it with the greatest event so far on earth.
So, should you wish people, “Happy Easter?” Seriously? But when you’re greeted with a “Happy Easter!”—bunnies aside—take the time to remind them Who was resurrected, and why! You’ll be blessed, and so will they.