Celebrating the New Season of Life

Peacae Village Forsythia 1When I was a young child Easter was an exciting time. I got to wear new clothes and a big straw hat. I remember one with a pretty grosgrain ribbon around it. The ribbon hung down in the back and in my memory it is blue. At Christmas and Easter we attended my father’s church as well as my mother’s. I liked his best. Not only did they sing hymns but also at Easter geraniums lined the church driveway for children like me to take home after the service. Then we would go to a relative’s for lunch and there would be candy after dessert. My mother did not approve of candy so we seldom had it at home unless someone brought it. That was my Easter celebration.

Easter and spring are synonymous. From time immemorial people have found ways to celebrate the coming of the warmer, lighter days and the passing of the dark, cold ones. When primitive cultures worshipped personalities that embodied seasons, they honored their gods and goddesses of spring, summer, fall and winter. Celebrations throughout the world centering on spring, especially in cold climates, had much in common with today’s Christian Easter.

The rising of Christ from the dead ends the period of self-deprivation or fasting known as Lent. The rebirth of the garden and the growth of new life is echoed in the Christian Easter observance. In the days before refrigeration and supermarkets, because the garden and the fields were bare and brown Lent was observed willy-nilly. In the cold climates all there was to eat were stored, dried vegetables, roots and grains. Nothing green was available. The growth of the first plants was something to be hailed as individuals foraged and found fresh vegetable matter to eat after the long winter months.

There was great cause to rejoice in the coming of the longer light and the warmer days. Different cultures evolved their own observances centering around their own deities and beliefs. Many of these customs have come down to us and are part of our observances today. The ways we celebrate our Easter, similar to our Christmas celebrations have become a conglomeration of the various cultures from which we derive our present day civilization. However they are all a reflection of the original reasons to celebrate: the coming of a time of growth and renewal after a period of hardship and sacrifice.

These customs all contain the affirmation that growth and change will proceed uninterrupted, and that the ultimate harvest will be a good one. The bunny that brings the Easer basket is Germanic in origin, a favorite of the goddess of spring. The symbolic eggs too come from there, as well as from other places representing symbols of new life. When you buy marshmallow Peeps or chocolate eggs, you echo the innocence of that beginning. The purchase of new clothes too is symbolic as is the Easter feast common to most families. What seems meaningful is not how we celebrate but that as from time immemorial we acknowledge the wonderful coming of warmer weather and brighter days for all.

We Need Celebrations

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 Celebrations are the bright blessings of our lives

My children loved me to read to them. One of their favorites was an entrancing book by Charlotte Zolotow, charmingly illustrated by Garth Williams. Called Over and Over, ¬†it was about days to celebrate. Throughout the book the preschool child asked “What comes next?”, and the mother would reply, sequencing the round of holiday celebrations that stretched through the year from the child’s current birthday around to her next one.

Holidays, originally holy days, were organized around the changing of the seasons, planting and harvest and the worship of the various deities involved. Some, like Christmas and Easter are still part of our culture, while others like Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day have become important traditions that we enjoy, participate in and share with friends and family. As we take part in holidays they add a special meaning to our lives and refresh our spirits.

Holidays bring families together. They also provide advertising revenue for the media and commercial potential for merchants. “What comes next” can be easily seen in the stores as green shamrocks and Easter bunnies jostle each other for space on the shelves of department and drug stores and supermarkets. Many protest the commercialization of holidays, yet the decorations do alert us to the eternal round of celebration that comes with the twelve months of the year.

We have within us always the child who delights in holidays. These are important to our need for celebrations. They are vital times of relief from the stress and tension of business and daily life. In the cold and dark days of winter especially, Christmas and Valentine’s day take on even greater significance because of the joy and happiness they bring. Like bright threads woven into a dark tapestry where bleakness predominates, they highlight¬† and fulfill our yearning for joy.

May Your holidays bring you brightness when you need it most.