Spring is officially upon us.
Oh happy day! Every year Spring reminds me that there truly is an ebb and flow, a balance to life. A shift happens and we transition from a season where life is in wait, dormant and quiet, at rest, to a season when life awakens and nature stretches her limbs as she wakes from her slumber.
Such hope and inspiration comes with the blooming of flowers and trees, the singing of birds and the smell of freshly turned earth…..life.
With Spring comes springing forward and then Easter. Easter is a holiday when many people, Christian or not, buy a new dress for church and hunt colorful eggs that were left by a magic rabbit. These traditions are also coupled with a religious celebration of Jesus being raised from the dead.
For a curious mind, such as I have, I wanted to know more about these traditions. Growing up I would ask what does candy and rabbits and eggs have to do with Jesus dying and being raised from the dead on the third day? I never really received a satisfying answer.
So let’s take a look together.
Why is the Spring Equinox important?
The Spring Equinox usually takes place between March 19th and March 21st. In this moment the sun is moving north across the celestial equator and for those of us north of the equator we begin to see longer days.
The Spring Equinox is an important marker for determining many religious holidays and celebrations. The Jewish celebration of Passover is the first full moon after the Spring Equinox.
For Christians, Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon, on or after, the Spring Equinox. Which is why you will hear people say that Easter is early this year. The date changes every year and is determined by the equinox.
In many Arab countries Mother’s day is marked by the Spring Equinox. I kind of like this idea. In a celebration of birth and all things life giving it makes sense to celebrate mothers.
This is where it gets even more interesting. In neopaganism, the Spring Equinox is celebrated with a holiday called Ostara or Eostre, pronounced Eestra or Oostra. Did you say the words out loud? Did you hear a familiar word? I know! Me too. Easter. The holiday celebrates life, new beginnings and our Earth mother.
Writings of an 8th Century Monk note that April is known as Eostremonth for a goddess the Anglo-Saxons honored in the Spring. Another interesting bit for me was reading the correlation between Eostre and the Greek Eos, The Roman Aurora, the goddess of the dawn. (new beginnings)
Colored eggs and Magical rabbits
As a child, well actually, at any time in your life, have you questioned why we hunt eggs that are hidden in the bushes, by the way, by a magical rabbit….that we never see?
As I mentioned before, I have asked many times and the most common answer I received was it was something fun for the kids to do. But why? Why rabbits? Why eggs? Why are they hidden?
Recently I attended a Spring Equinox class at the United Universalist Church in Fayetteville, AR. The class was hosted by the Web of Life group who meets in the annex building of the UU Church.
This was my second time to attend a class there and for the second time I was not disappointed in the knowledge I gained.
The group leader read aloud a children’s book, The Spring Equinox, by Ellen Jackson. I loved the illustrations and the way the author explained the history behind many Equinox traditions. My favorite story was the story of the hares and the eggs.
As you may or may not know, rabbits construct nests, hidden in the bushes, here they birth their young. Hiding the nests in the bushes and brush gives natural protection for the female and her new bunnies from possible predators. Once the bunnies have grown and hopped away, abandoning the nest, a bird called a plover would take over the nest and lay her eggs.
It does make me giggle to think of how the local people must have felt to perhaps be hunting rabbits only to find eggs in what they knew was a rabbit’s nest.
Interesting tid bits about the Easter Bunny
- The Easter Bunny comes from 16th Century German folklore. Legend says if good little boys and girls make a nest in their bonnets and caps they would awaken to a reward of colored eggs.
- In the 18th Century many Germans began immigrating to the United States. Naturally with an influx of people comes an influx of new traditions and so the Easter Bunny was introduced to American boys and girls.
- Chocolate bunnies were produced in Germany during the 19th Century and it wasn’t until World War II and the rationing of the cocoa bean that bunnies became hollow.
- In the 1950’s the Easter Bunny was nicknamed Peter Cottontail with the release of Gene Autry’s song, Here Comes Peter Cottontail. This was a hit as it came on the heels of Autry’s Here Comes Santa Claus.
- In Australia the rabbit is a menace as Australia was overrun with rabbits in the 19th Century. They have since adopted the bilby, an endangered animal that resembles a rabbit, as their symbol of Easter.
Did you or do you dye and hunt Easter eggs as a child or for your children? Do you plant a tree every Spring to celebrate the season of life? Or, do you participate in Lent during this time and await Easter for the breaking of the fast?
However you celebrate Spring I hope growth and renewal and life for you. Embrace whatever traditions you wish! I simply challenge you to know and to take the time to understand why you believe and celebrate the way you do and to even perhaps be creative and begin your own Spring time traditions for you and your family.
Now I’m off to do some spring cleaning. I hope I find some hidden forgotten goodies and not just cobwebs and dust bunnies.
Be you. Be beautiful. Be imperfect.