Whatever your beliefs are, there’s no denying that our ancestors have celebrated Easter, or a festival very much like Easter for millennia.

Spring festivals are a time for celebrating the end of winter and the fertility of our people and they still resonate in the contemporary rituals and symbols of Easter (Rabbits and eggs). Fertility has little to do with the resurrection of Christ, but the symbols are still retained by the holiday as a sign of its distinct, European heritage. Like Christmas, Easter still has the ghosts of its pagan past and some of the celebrations of the holiday reflect the old spirits. It even goes one step further in its claim of a pagan nature by the fact that it still has its heathen name that indicated its connection to Ostara, the Germanic goddess of the dawn.

The best example of this are the Easter bonfires that are still continued in Northern Europe. A massive wooden structure is erected and then set ablaze to symbolize the joy that winter is finally over and the growing season has begun once more. It also symbolizes fertility with the ashes of the fire falling on the nearby fields and helping to fertilize the ground for the coming season.

In spite of its clearly pagan nature, the spectacle is still kept for Easter and its glorification of the resurrection. While the faith has changed since the days the Saxons revered Ostara, the traditions have stayed with us and remind us that we still connect with our ancestors through ritual and observations.

In honor of Easter, here are images of this old tradition that we have managed to keep alive for several centuries.