You have to admit, the christians are good at strategy - incorporate the symbolism and rituals of far more ancient beliefs and over the centuries they 'become' their own.
Here's just another example of a fertility celebration found the world over long before christianity reared it's ugly, violent head...
Eostre (pronounced East-ra) was the Anglo-Saxon goddess of the dawn, from whom "East" (where the sun rises) and "Easter" got its name - as the fertility goddess (representng the sunrise, spring-time and fertility, the renewal of life) of the Northern European peoples, her legend was manipulated by the invading Romans - newly Christianised, they merged Eostre's spring legend to coincide with the time of Christ's 'resurrection'.
She is also goddess Ostara, the maiden, in German mythology, celebrated when night and day are equal and balanced (the spring equinox for the northern hemisphere). Interestingly, the word "estrus" (referring to an animal in heat) is also derived from Eostre as her consort was a rabbit with an extraordinarily high libido!
If you're interested in knowing more, check out Pagan Goddess.
There are so many views on where the term came from - here's another explanation from the Library of Halexandria
"The word Easter itself derives from Ishtar (aka Inanna ), the Babylonian and Assyrian goddess whom the Phoenicians knew as Astarte. [Obviously, moving the “e” from aft to fore, and dropping the “t” in Astarte's name yields “eastar”. This might also be written as “Ea-Star”, where “Ea” was the Sumerian god, Enki .]
More curious is the fact that Astarte was known in the Bible as Ashtoreth, “a non-name formed by misreading the goddess' name Athtarath with different vowels so that the word becomes ‘shameful thing'. What seems to have been shameful to the patriarchal hebrews was the untrammeled sexuality of the goddess, one of those who ‘conceived but did not bear' offspring for her partners.” In other words, the pagan Easter was to celebrate the rampant sexuality of the goddess – the same goddess who was known (along with her priestesses) as the “whores of Babylon .”
You can obviously tell I'm definitely of the belief that it was ripped off by christianity!!!!