As we all know, pretty much all non-Germanic-language Christian countries call Easter a name derived from “Pasch”, Passover.
We don’t, and the Germans don’t. The Venerable Bede helpfully told us that there was a German/Norse goddess of fertility and spring called Eostre (Saxon/English) or Ostara (German). People have speculated that her name is cognate with words like “East” and “estrus”.
But… why did the early missionaries go all Eostra-friendly? Hmmmmm. Reckless Speculation Follows.
We all know about the Book of Esther, and the story of the brave lady who saved her people, daring to face death. Her Hebrew name was Hadassah, but her Persian name was Esther, meaning “star”.
My speculation is that the early missionaries in fact saw the name Eostre and any celebration of her at Passover time as a Providential reference from afar to Esther, a direction from God which they dared not ignore. As Esther saved her people, so Jesus saved us all. And as Esther figuratively faced death to bring back life for her people, so Jesus literally went down to Hell and brought back the Patriarchs and saved everybody. Moreover, Esther fasted three days to bring God’s redemption.
My understanding is that Purim is usually in February/March, a month before Passover. The early Christian missionaries of England were probably not celebrating Purim, though! 🙂 There is a feast of Ss. Esther and Mordecai in some old saints’ calendars, on May 25th. (Passover would pretty much split the difference!)
So they probably wouldn’t see any problem celebrating the feast of the Passover and the Resurrection as a feast of Queen Esther, also, and possibly using that to wean the Saxons and Germans off their fertility goddess.
(Btw, her Hebrew name Hadassah in Latin is “Edissa”, which would sound like a reasonable Germanic/Saxon female name like Edela or Aeditha. This proves nothing, of course.)
It would be interesting to see if anybody did any sort of linking of Esther with paschal or Passion imagery in the relevant language areas, in sermons or poems or the like. I know Esther has long been used as a type of the Church or Mary.
Aelfric’s homilies on Esther [in which the name is spelled Ester and Hester], Judith, and the Maccabees do survive, and you can read them online. Like a lot of old sermons and homilies, this one is a straight-up translation and retelling of the Book of Esther.