Yes, Easter has pagan roots. The Saxon fertility goddess, Ēostre or Ostara, was celebrated at a festival in the springtime, around the time of the Passover. As pagans came into the church and converted to Christianity, Church leaders saw no problem permitting customs from this pagan holiday that aligned with the Christian holiday to be included in the customs that were observed. Easter bunnies – a pagan fertility symbol — and Easter baskets are not found in the Bible.
A second problem linked to the Passover observance was that until the fourth century, the church strictly followed the Jewish calendar for the date of the Memorial of Jesus's death (antitypical Passover) AND for the Week of Unleavened Bread that followed. This was the holiest season of the year. We learn this from the History of Eusebius. However, in the fourth century the church decided it had the authority to change the calculation for the date from the Passover method (Exodus 12:1). The idea was to change the date so that the remembrance of the crucifixion would ALWAYS be on a Friday and the remembrance of the Resurrection would ALWAYS fall on a Sunday.
While we cannot support this change, any memorial of our Lord’s resurrection will always be precious to His people. To those who correctly appreciate the matter, every Sunday is an “Easter” Sunday, because every Sunday commemorates our Lord’s resurrection.
During New Testament times, the early church would meet together on Sunday. Acts 20:7, “And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them…” It would only be natural to rehearse and celebrate the miraculous events of that Sunday when the disciples found Jesus’s tomb to be empty. Thus, the first day of the week became a traditional time for Christians to worship God.
However, the one celebration which Jesus did establish and command His followers to keep was one that commemorated His death. Jesus instituted a memorial of His imminent death right after He and His disciples kept the Passover feast (see Matthew 26:26-28). The Apostle Paul further explained in 1 Corinthians 5:7, “Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.” Jesus’s sacrifice as the antitypical passover lamb helps us to understand when and how frequently we are to drink the cup and eat the unleavened bread commemorating His death. Just as the typical Passover was celebrated yearly on the 14th. of Nissan, so Christians are to commemorate our Lord’s death as the antitypical passover Lamb on the 14th. of Nissan after sunset.